TK3, the third incarnation of a multimedia authoring tool (and e-book reader file format) envisioned a decade ago by Voyager founder Bob Stein, debuts this month at Stein's latest company's Web site,

Judging by the reactions of observers, it was worth the wait. Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future, a think-tank focusing on the future of technology, said, "The buzz reminds me of the excitement when PageMaker arrived on the scene and launched the desktop-publishing phenomenon."

TK3 (for Tool Kit 3) Author allows users to collect text, audio, photo images and video with simple drag-and-drop techniques, and assemble them in a document, adding hypertext linking, easy annotations and highlighting.

The tool enables the author to produce a book as simple or complex as he or she chooses. "We include page templates, but authors can also make their own page backgrounds and placement of elements in the design," said Stein. "The text can be imported as HTML or RTF files, and as the author moves a picture around on the page, the text reflows automatically."

"TK3 is a proprietary format, said Stein, but "it doesn't matter what kind of a machine is used to write the book or read it." He explained, "If I write on a Mac and you write in Windows, we can still swap files directly, and the fonts and images will look exactly the same."

TK3 requires no special training. "The model for adoption is not from the top down, with publishers licensing a few copies for their design departments," Stein said. "It's from the bottom up—authors adopting it because of what they can do with it."

Users can import any text font; make bold, italic or underlined text; set paragraph indents and tabs, and realign type as font size changes. Despite Saffo's praise, Stein cautioned, "TK3 is not a page-design tool, a replacement for Quark. It's about freeing up the author's creativity. You can print it out to see what it'll look like, but TK3 is really more about using the Web, not going to print."

The TK3 Reader software is available as a free download from the site, while the TK3 Author costs $59 per year to license, which includes all updates. Author can also be purchased outright for $149, without the updates. While products made with TK3 can be distributed for free, Night Kitchen charges a 1% (of list price) license on commercial products, or 2% if publishers use the DRM software specially written in association with service provider Savantech.

A Whole Experience

Night Kitchen has included 14 sample TK3 texts on its site, including The Cavemen in the Hedges, winner of the Short Fiction category in the 2001 Independent eBook Awards; HAL's Legacy: 2001's Computer as Dream and Reality from MIT Books; and the bestselling The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook from Chronicle Books.

The site also offers samples of Chronicle's Office Yoga and The Bad Girl's Guide to Getting What You Want. Mary Beth Ray, Chronicle's custom publishing manager, told PW, "We want to give our readers something valuable and fun. Other e-book formats are basically digital text and pictures. TK3 Reader is a whole experience."