Monday, 30 September 2013

Valobox: seeing books differently?

History is littered with startup websites that intended to break the mould. A few did. Many more were themselves broken by the market. Because what seems a good idea in your garage doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense when it becomes available to the world.

I am honestly undecided about one such new website in the publishing field, Valobox. It is, they say, a new way of accessing ebooks. The idea is that you can take a look at an ebook online, read a chapter free and then either buy the whole book or individual chapters at a time. It is all done in the browser, so there are no apps and it works on anything that can run a browser.

It's a really fine balance when you put it up against something like Kindle. Using the Amazon ebook format gives you a free sample chapter, and is readable on pretty well any platform you can think of. Here's my quick pros and cons for Valobox:

PROS
  • It's simple and you can try before you buy
  • It has text searching, highlighting etc.
  • Works anywhere without downloading an app
  • Unique ability to buy selected chapters (could be useful in non-fiction and/or research)

CONS
  • Although the formatting on web pages is good, it's not as flexible as an app
  • You have to have internet access - can't download and read offline
  • Page turning is quite slow as you have to wait for download (though a whole chapter comes as a single page)
I really can't make up my mind what I think about Valobox. I suspect in the end, the convenience of using Kindle or iBooks, with their vast libraries and easy apps, will probably generally push me in their direction. And I do like to be able to read offline. But I will be disappointed if Valobox fails as it is a very neat concept. Why not give it a try?

To get a feel for it, here is the Valobox version of my book Roger Bacon. You can see exactly what is available for free and what you would pay for the rest, though if you join (it's free and you get $1 credited to your account) you can select another 10 pages to read for nothing.

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