Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Forget the E-book; now it's the Vook?

Share |

Could it be that the e-book is already so, like, yesterday? The New York Times notes that vampirologist Ann Rice has sold the multimedia rights to her previously-published story "The Master of Rampling Gate" to Vook, "a multimedia company that has joined with publishers and authors to make enhanced editions of electronic books." Simon & Schuster, not wanting to miss its chance to surf this new wave, has announced four new vooks, two each of fiction and non-.
So what is a "vook," exactly? It's essentially an e-book for your personal computer or I-phone with two enhancements:
1. selected portions of the text are amplified (maybe we need a new verb here, "videofied"?) with short videos
2. a link to your favourite social media sites allows instant connections with others reading the same vook, so you can tweet or Facebook your immediate reactions to the experience ("omigod that Heathcliffe is soooo dark & mysterious"? or "hamlet just make up your tiny mind already").
Your faithful reporter (a currently unenhanced carbon-based life-form) thinks that the video aspect of Vooks could actually be helpful for non-fiction. If the text in question is, for example, about an exercise regimen or how to fix your almost-working motorcycle, video clips could add a useful dimension. They would also be worthwhile, I suspect, in genres like biography and history, where you could view a historical clip of the subject.
With fiction, though, I'm less sanguine about the application. One of the great pleasures of reading fiction is the ability to use your imagination to create a mental image of each character and setting, starting with the clues given you by the writer.
You may even construct a tone of voice for each main character, hearing that in your head as you read. Anne Rice's writing has never been, in my opinion, short of the suggestive details needed for this internal directing and producing. Having a video version of key fictional scenes means you are abandoning your internal creations for someone else's vision. And, if you've ever seen a favourite novel badly adapted into video or film, you know how jarring this can be.
As for the social media aspect -- it could be fun, if the other tweeters or Facebookers share your sensibilities. But, just as easily, someone could give the ending away, indulge in a pointless attack on the writer or text, or attempt to relate major plot events to Lindsay Lohan's latest travails. In that case, the vook wouldn't be an enhanced reading experience, just another raft adrift in the vast electronic seas of our era.
By the way, the embedded video below refers to Vook as "an entirely new innovation." Aren't you glad that it's not an "old innovation"?

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Related item from our archives

John Oughton

John Oughton is the author of several books, including Time Slip: New and Selected Poems, published by Guernica Editions.

Go to John Oughton’s Author Page