Tuesday, December 22, 2009

About vooks, digi-novels and hybrid books

You must have heard of it - the vook is here. A vook (video + book), also known as a digi-novel, combines videos with electronic text that can be read/viewed online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Simon & Schuster was the first publisher to for it with the release of four vooks.

Early September 2009, Anthony E. Zuiker (creator of the television series “CSI”) put the vook firmly on the map with his "Level 26: Dark Origins”. The novel is published on paper, as an e-book and in an audio version. Readers are invited to log on to a Web site to watch brief videos that flesh out the plot.
Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, which released “Level 26,” said he wanted the book’s text to be able to stand on its own, but the culture demanded rethinking the format.
Like everybody, you see people watching these three-minute YouTube videos and using social networks,” Mr. Tart said. “And there is an opportunity here to bring in more people who might have thought they were into the new media world.” Readers of “Level 26,” which Mr. Zuiker wrote with Duane Swierczynski, have mixed responses to what the publisher is marketing as a “digi-novel.”
It really makes a story more real if you know what the characters look like,” commented Fred L. Gronvall in a review on Amazon.com. The videos, he wrote, “add to the experience in a big way.”
But another reviewer, posting as Rj Granados, wrote, “Do you really think cheesy video vignettes will IMPROVE the book?”

Everybody is trying to think about how books and information will best be put together in the 21st century,” said Judith Curr, publisher of Atria Books, the Simon & Schuster imprint that is releasing the electronic editions in partnership with Vook, a multimedia company. She added, “You can’t just be linear anymore with your text.”

Another vook is “Embassy,” a short thriller about a kidnapping written by Richard Doetsch. It uses a video snippet that resembles a newscast reveals that the victim is the mayor’s daughter, replacing some of Mr. Doetsch’s original text. He said that the new editions should not replace the traditional book. He has written a forthcoming novel, “The 13th Hour,” that he thinks is too long to lend itself to the video-enhanced format. The new editions, he said, are “like dipping a novel into a cinematic pool and pulling it out and getting the best parts of each.”

Jude Deveraux, a popular romance author who has written 36 straightforward text novels, said she loved experimenting with “Promises,” an exclusive vook set on a 19th-century South Carolina plantation in which the integrated videos add snippets of dialogue and atmosphere. But the use of video clips to provide atmosphere, including fluttering shots of cernuous willows and Southern mansions don’t work so well. The text was produced separately from the videos, which makes the clips feel not only redundant, but distracting as well.

Not all authors are charmed by the idea. Some authors resent the idea of mixing mediums. Walter Mosley stated: “As a novelist I would never ever allow videos to substitute for prose. Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow, and our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on computers.”

Personally, I like to snuggle to with an old-fashioned printed book. I love the smell and the sensation of turning pages. For me, video images would distract me - I like to use my own imagination to "picture" the story and its characters. I do see a future for vooks of the classics, such as "Ab Urbe Condita" and "La Chanson de Roland". Funny enough, I didn't see marketeers in the high-tech sector jump on it yet. A vook would be a great format for technical brochures and white papers and an amazing marketing tool.

1 comment:

Matthew Cavnar said...


Thanks for taking note of Vook. You should really check out our Sherlock Holmes title to see the range of possibilities we're offering with Vook, both for education and for the curious reader. We now hyperlink our Vooks, which opens them up to the entire internet.


Though I like Walter Mosley, that quote from him drives me a little nuts. We're not trying to replace books or that "book smell" -- nobody's trying to do that. We're simply creating a new medium that expands the reach and possibilities for books, storytelling and authors. We can be as nostalgic as we want for books, and I don't think they're going anywhere. But we should look at what Vook's really trying to do -- instead of, as I feel with Mosley, just responding to what we think or fear digital books might be trying to do.

Drop me a line anytime at Matthew@vook.com