With audio and mini-films bundled in, Ukrainian startup CINE-BOOKS hopes to take digital books to the next level.
CINE-BOOKS is a "next generation publishing and book-filming startup" that offers a 'three-in-one' digital book format, as well as a global distribution platform that aims to connect readers, authors and film-makers in the creation of highly visual books.
The company's signature "cine-books" can be switched between three modes, allowing them to be read, listened to and watched. They combine an e-book with cinematic illustrations; an audiobook with professional voice-acting and soundtracks; and a video (either a traditional movie or motion slide book with animations and special effects) in high resolution, including Ultra HD 4K.
For launch, the company has designed 12 cine-books based on the world’s classical bestselling authors. Four of them are currently in soft-launch on the AppStore, GooglePlay and Amazon, and eight are now at the final stage of post-production.
The distribution platform, due to go live in the first quarter of 2018, aims to unite readers, authors and& content providers (indie filmmakers, professional production studios, film producers, photographers, CG animation studios) that can visualise their stories in the format of photorealistically-illustrated books or films. It also has a crowdfunding element.
"Any author, publishing manager or literary agent will be able to offer his or her book to be issued in our format," explains Oleg Fonarov, CINE-BOOKS c.e.o. "The cine-books’ community of readers will decide which book to publish, and authors will have the possibility to conduct a full crowdfunding campaign due to their reader’s votes."
For the past 25 years, Fonarov has been leading an R&D and innovation-oriented software development company in Ukraine. In his spare time, he's a practitioner of conceptual photography - which is how the idea of visualising stories into photographic form was born.
He's supported in the CINE-BOOKS venture by a couple of dozen specialists. The production department boasts computer graphics specialists (2D and 3D), VFX artists, photographers, decorators, directors, actors and voiceover artists. The publishing and distribution department team handles rights and distribution for authors, publishers and agents. There is also a marketing sub-division that deals with open beta-testing of the products - anyone can currently explore the format for free - and an R&D team in charge of app development for different mobile platforms.
What's the gap in the market?
"New reading formats are required," Fonarov declares. "Digital books haven’t fully met the expectations of the market, so we thought we’d work out the format for people who love reading but would enjoy it more if we make a visual adaptation of the narrative - with illustrations, special effects, voice overs, soundtracks or even video.
"It’s a new kind of pastime. Got a fidgety kid? Lure him into reading with our classic CINE-BOOKS collection. Too tired to browse through books and then stand in a queue yourself? Just switch on your tablet and let us tell you the story. Or better yet - invite your friends: wire your tablet to the big screen via AirPlay and Chromecast and watch our cine-book together."
Fonarov also believes he's bridging a gap in the creative B2B marketplace.
"There are a huge number of filmmakers capable of creating excellent short films," he says. "However, there is no mechanism for the distribution and monetisation of such movies. At the same time, many visual artists complain of the shortage of high-quality stories. On the other hand, there are many brilliant authors who want to screen their stories, but creating a movie is too expensive for them. Sometimes they simply don’t know how to find a visual artist for this kind of work. Thus, we are creating a new market by uniting authors and visual content creators."
Success so far?
It's early days for the soft-launched product, but Fonarov is investing hard. He's built a large green-screen studio in Eastern Europe to shoot the cine-books in virtual 3D scenery, and he recently did the rounds at Frankfurt to present the format.
"Having created 12 classic titles, we are now working on a contemporary collection," he says. "We are holding talks, selecting the most amazing authors, collecting rights for books and meeting with publishing leaders."
"One of the challenges is adapting large-volume books," Fonarov admits. "So far, we’ve worked with the titles that are no more than 100 pages. We strive to make a book dynamic, thrilling. So, the bigger the book, the tougher the challenge and the more time the production process takes. Now we are considering adapting some books in the format of the series.
"The second challenge is probably in attracting the most popular authors. Being a start-up, we have to work hard to spread the word about ourselves. It takes time and quite an effort."
Fonarov's grand vision is for all spectacular bestsellers to be published in a cine-book format, with external production studios and filmmakers from around the world helping to create content via their distribution platform.
"Mainly, we are talking about narratives that are underestimated by the big movie companies, but still worthy of being transformed into a screen version in a certain form," he explains. "We want to become deeply integrated into the modern entertainment industry. In fact, we argue that cine-books could help cinematography develop, giving a hint about which narratives movie makers should invest in. Even the large cinematographic studios might be interested in analysing success of individual titles in the cine-book format, because they will get the additional vital data about the preferences of specific audience groups."
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
"Don’t forget that you create a product not for yourself, but for people. Meet the needs of the market and receive proof of concept. Then be sensitive to feedback. Don’t be afraid to change your product. Feedback shouldn’t be a negative experience: rather, you should learn from it."