Random House has purchased a "significant minority stake" in VOCEL, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times reported that Random House has also agreed to license two of the company’s product lines.
Under the agreements, Vocel will adapt language-study guides and
video-game tips from Random House for delivery to cellphones beginning
sometime this summer. While most information will be in the form of
text, the Living Language service will also permit users to hear the
correct pronunciations of foreign words.
VOCEL bills itself as a "publisher of premium-branded applications," whose "push technology sends interactive messages to […] mobile phones." Articles about the investment mention more mature cell phone publishing efforts in Europe and Asia.
No news yet about how the partnership figures into Random House’s plans for fiction on cell phones, which seems to have been relegated so far to more guerilla-type publishing and haphazard efforts (see 12/5/04 post "Shorter is Better"). Richard Sarnoff, President of Random House Ventures (an investment arm of the publishing house), was quoted as saying
that cell phones were inadequate for "sustained reading." (Sarnoff sits on the board of The Princeton Review, which is one of VOCEL’s content partners.) Random House Ventures’ past investments have included Xlibris (the self-publishing business), Audible (the provider of digital audio content) and ebrary (a provider of online information and retrieval services).