Woman reading an ebook on a tablet.



Following is a case study summary, reach out for a walkthrough of the full case study.


End-to-end cloud-based e-publishing made easy.

I was the product and design lead of this cloud-based, Software as a Service (SaaS), end-to-end ebook publishing web application. I authored the product strategy to pivot from publisher to platform, translated business and user needs into the product roadmap and led the product team through launch. Additionally, I supported and mentored a high-performing product and design team of four, introduced Lean Startup and Lean UX practices and established a strong collaboration with the engineering team.

The Challenge

Ebook publishing was and still is, a lot harder than it should be:
Requiring front-end developer skills and despite ePub standards, developing for e-readers can be like coding for the web during the bad old days of the browser wars.

  • Adding images, video, web fonts or styling with CSS are all considered advanced skills.
  • Distribution can be equally challenging; navigating multiple ebook stores, file formats, requirements and metadata.

The challenge was: to remove all of this complexity and:

  • Create a simple-to-use SaaS application that allowed anyone to create ebooks without the need for any development skills
  • Distribute their ebooks with the push of a button and track all sales activity from one place

Michael brought strong leadership to both creative and product management at Vook. His thoughtful designs were often recognized for their ease-of-use overcoming the inherent complexities in e-book creation and publishing. Michael was highly respected by the Engineering team because [of] his open, informed, and agile work style. I look forward to when our paths cross again.

Rob Guttman, VP of Engineering, Vook 

The Solution

As Product Management and User Experience lead, I collaborated with my fellow leadership team members:

  • On a product vision
  • Developed a roadmap based on customer research
  • Participated in planning and execution of the product launch
  • Collaboratively developed a set of core product promises that defined the product vision Led the user experience team using Agile and Lean UX
  • Worked closely with the engineering team
Optimizing sign up
The Vook website after using a combination of web analytics and usability tests to optimize conversion resulted in changes that led to a 17% lift in trial sign-ups.

Michael is a strong creative force, consistently able to balance heavy workloads with a high-level of personal attention to crucial details. Nothing escapes his comprehensive understanding of process. He can take a big picture strategic objective and walk through and execute the complicated individual pieces—long-range thought and daily execution in one—a crucial advantage, particularly in a startup environment. He‘s also very well versed in the history of design and aesthetics, which means he brings a craftsman‘s eye to his work.

Matthew Cavnar, VP of Business Development, Vook

The Outcome

Vook was an end-to-end cloud-based e-publishing solution. With Vook, users could:

  • Create and publish ebooks anywhere
  • Build and style awesome-looking ebooks without knowing how to code
  • Effortlessly incorporate fonts
  • Easily add video, images and sound
  • Preview their ebooks quickly
  • Manage metadata simply
  • Conveniently watch sales from multiple channels all in one dashboard
Metadata made easy
Metadata is the lifeblood of ebook marketing and is key to discoverability and ultimately to sales. Managing metadata is challenging, as each ebook store has differing requirements—even for the same data sets—and uses obscure publishing industry terminology. MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging) is a good example of both problems. I created a streamlined user experience by analyzing all of the data sets from multiple ebook stores and collapsing them into a unified set removing the complexity for users.

Publishers Weekly has been testing the platform and [Vook] could indeed be a game changer.

Craig Morgan Teicher, Publishers Weekly

The Impact

  • Vook launched to a fanfare of positive press
  • Built a following of loyal self-publishers and small publishers users
  • In 2015, Vook was renamed Pronoun and in 2016, was acquired by Macmillan Publishing
Style editor
One of Vook’s biggest differentiators was the ability to style ebooks without the need to write any CSS. Users had control over typography, spacing, borders, and color. Using an HTML/CSS boilerplate I created, the engineering team used pre-compilers to deliver optimized code for each of the ebook stores.

Working with Michael was wonderful for two reasons. First he always demonstrated a deep care for the users and the product. This kept us engineers happy as we were building something that was well thought out. Second, he listened and responded/acted as a team player. We were all very confident of the product we put out because of this wonderful collaboration.

Amanuel Tewolde, Senior Software Architect, Vook