The printed book’s new enemy: the “vook”

Just as the world is just starting to warm up to the idea of e-books, it appears there’s a new nemesis of the old-fashioned book: the “vook“. It’s a digital hybrid of book and video, offering supplemental videos alongside the book’s text, which can be accessed through the internet or on hand-held mobile devices. It’s the brainchild of US-based Vook, a start-up who believes that its product is the future of reading. Take a look at Vook’s promotional video:

The new medium has been adopted by Atria, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. Judith Curr, Executive VP and Publisher for Atria says in an interview that she thinks vooks represent an aspect of publishing for the 21st century. She says that “this is a wonderful way to be able to tell a new story without the huge expense of making a major movie.” Vooks offer the possibility to add atmospheric qualities, tell a back story, show photographs. They  The publishers already have four vooks ready for purchase: romance novel “Promises“, fitness book “The 90 Second Fitness Solution“, thriller “Embassy” and health book “Return to Beauty“. Here’s the trailer for “Embassy”:

The Week asked “Will anyone read vooks?” and quoted Dave Rosenthal from The Baltimore Sun as saying that Simon & Schuster “is moving in the right direction… Just as the Internet opened up sound and video for newspapers, vooks (or whatever else they get called) can broaden the dimensions of the printed page… [and] this is just the start of the book’s evolution, so let’s see where the technology can take us.”

Not convinced? You’re not alone. Last week, the New York Times ran a story entitled “Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included” which offered some insight into vooks. They quote Tufts University professor and author Maryanne Wolf:

“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader, [but] can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”

I agree with Wolf. Vooks cater to – and perhaps even encourage – attention-short reading. Whatever happened to using your imagination to envision characters in a book?  And those who prefer visual media would sooner watch a DVD than super-cheesy, low-budget video clips. Adding videos to books cheapens the whole experience of reading a novel.

On the other hand, I could see this medium extending itself well to fitness books, cookbooks and other instructional texts where accompanying video would help to communicate the books’ advice. But please, let’s draw the line there!

Attention all non-US e-book lovers: Amazon‘s Kindle is releasing an international version, available 19 October for $279.

International users of the new Kindle will have a slightly smaller collection of around 200,000 English-language books to choose from, and their catalogs will be tailored to the country they purchased the device in. Amazon said it would sell books from a range of publishers including Bloomsbury, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet and Simon & Schuster.

Planning on jumping on the e-book/vook bandwagon?



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2 responses to “The printed book’s new enemy: the “vook”

  1. Bianca

    Cool post – this new media platform is like a virtual electronic story reader – like a techno version of the story-book reading time on ‘Playschool’. I would find it quite entertaining for long trips away, road trips or even if you wanted to get a few quick pages in of your favourite book on the train but do not want to strain your eyes in the morning chugging through a chapter in a hard copy version. Seeming it can be mobile proves it to be accommodating yet educational and a source of pleasure. The ‘vook’ may challenge the good old brown paged novel but everyone will always have their favourite read. It may not pop out or be made available to the ‘vook’ for many years to come so we may as well enjoy lugging around 30 novels in our bag as in a few years it appears they will all live in the one spot and everyone will be walking out of a library with their hands in the pockets – which would already be filled with their iphone, ipod, mini computer thing, credit card and a brain full of knowledge after playing around on the Internet.

  2. reneespeak

    Yeah, maybe you’re right that vooks are a medium best suited to children’s books – although I hate the idea that vooks would mean even fewer kids were reading anymore.
    I can’t see myself using vooks until the videos become MUCH less cheesy. Let’s just say there’s loooots of room for improvement.

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