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ABC News gets into video books with new app

ABC News has rolled out a new iPad app that offers video books that combine text, photos and video from the network’s archives. The ABC Video Bookstore app (iTunes), which is free, launched with two $7.99 books for sale: “A Modern Fairy Tale” (previewing the royal wedding) and “The Amanda Knox Story.”

We dug into the Lost Remote budget and bought the royal wedding book, authored by Jane Green. This isn’t Kindle, which strives to deliver books in 60 seconds — the video book took 14 minutes to download via WiFi. But it came with quite a few video clips.

The book opens with a video introduction from Barbara Walters, and then launches into 8 chapters of text — we counted 93 pages — interwoven with photos and 26 embedded ABC News video clips. Most of the videos run 1-3 minutes each, spanning recent stories to archive video of Princess Di. The experience is powered by Vook, and is straightforward and intuitive — flip to turn pages, touch to play and pause videos. The book also features a Google Map with notable places and an interactive timeline.

After the royal wedding, ABC News says it will update the app with fresh content — an example of how ebooks excel over their traditional paper-bound roots. Bestselling author Jane Green teamed up with ABC through the network’s sister-company Hyperion Books, which says it will continue to provide authors to power new ABC video books.

“Working with our colleagues at Hyperion, we are uniquely positioned to give readers access to history in a vibrant eBook form – from political campaigns and human drama to the triumphs and tragedies that grip the world,” said ABC News President Ben Sherwood.

Overall, I like the app and the video book, although I wonder about the pricing — $7.99 is a lot to spend. Even though it’s affordable compared to other digital books, I found myself comparing the price to other apps and TV show downloads, not to books. It would probably help if ABC includes a free book in the app, so users can get a sense of the breadth of content that will be available — it’s not a video with some text, but rather the reverse.

By the way, ebooks overall outsold traditional book formats in February. For ABC, which has its own sister publishing arm in Hyperion, attempting to monetize its video archives this way seems to make a lot of sense.

Plus: See more reviews and news about TV apps

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