Why eBooks

As two developers who once helped build an elaborate animation system, we’re sometimes asked how we decided to enter the world of eBooks. That decision began with a conversation and ended in a dumpster.

The conversation was with a close friend who had been reading self-published novels and blogs by their authors. These authors seemed so excited by the possibilities of eBooks, and yet dreaded the process of creating them. Our friend wondered what was involved.

Curious ourselves, we began a day of research, poring over publishing guidelines and reading through authors’ blogs. We sought to find a clear answer for how to create an eBook. Instead, we discovered a litany of frustrations, conflicting store requirements, and a cycle of trial-and-error with unpredictable results. We realized that part of the problem was the tools being used, tools that had typically been designed for the printed page. eBooks were much different.

And that’s when we realized we could create something better. We wanted to build a tool that was designed for eBooks, from small details like chapter navigation to unique features like built-in knowledge of store requirements. We wanted to bring the richness of print books to the digital world with stylized headings and typesetting that followed standards of book design. Most of all, we wanted to give authors and publishers things they’d likely never experienced when creating eBooks: ease-of-use, predictability, and sometimes a bit of fun.

We launched Vellum 1.0 in December. The version here is important, as it represents a beginning. As Serenity Caldwell observed, 1.0 doesn’t tick off every box in the feature chart. Our priority was for each feature that we did include to be well-designed and easy-to-use. Some authors and publishers have everything they need in 1.0 and have been creating eBooks already. The ones that don’t are sharing with us what they need most. There are countless things we can’t wait to do with Vellum, and feedback from users is helping us prioritize what comes next.

In the meantime, we’re thrilled to see how quickly authors are taking to Vellum. We loved reading Matt Bronleewe’s account of trying to publish before Christmas, and were amazed to see his eBooks on Amazon just days after Vellum was released. As we begin 2014, we’re looking forward to seeing everything that authors and publishers will create with Vellum.

Oh and the dumpster? It was when we found ourselves knee-deep in a dumpster rescuing thrown-out, century-old books — looking through their pages and marveling at their construction — that we knew why we were building Vellum. We love books.