Over the course of human history there have been some truly beautiful pairings:

Baseball + Bats
Wine + Cheese
Peanut Butter + Jelly
Fried Chicken + Kentucky
Hall + Oats
Limp + Bizkit
Snuggies + Crazy Dancing Old People
Care Bears + Stare

On and on the list goes …

Suffice to say, two is sometimes much better than one (quit humming!). So when I read about the latest crazy mashup of literature and tech, the Vook, I was cautiously optimistic.

Vook is a format that combines book and video into one cohesive multimedia experience that can be viewed/interacted with on your computer or portable device (iPhone, eReaders, etc.).

Now I’ve seen some iPad demos that basically show how books can become interactive by allowing the reader to play music, chat, and watch media that ties into the book.

That is essentially what a Vook is. I subscribe to both Writer’s Digest and Poets & Writers, and both have articles about Vooks in their most recent issues. This tells me that the format is getting some attention. It is pointed out in both articles that the Vook isn’t exactly being embraced by everyone as the future of publishing. In fact, in the P & W article, a skeptic basically states that it isn’t a viable trend because no one is using the format to create things that couldn’t be replicated otherwise. I took this to mean that the content being offered in current Vooks is simply add-on enhancements and couldn’t be viewed as a unique medium.

I don’t necessarily agree with that thinking. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of comics and graphic novels, and I’ve seen some demos of comics using an enhanced Vook-like format to add sound effects, moving panels, and music. To me, that seems like a pretty awesome new format for reading your comics. In fact, you’re not just reading them and looking at pictures any more, you’re participating in the story by swiping a sound effect, queuing music, etc.

As the electronic book format continues to take more and more of the market, I envision a future where most every reader will have some sort of electronic device to read on. Paper books will still exist, but they will be expensive and serve mostly as collectables. While I recognize the love people have for holding a physical book when reading, the signs are pointing toward a time when that will be viewed as a luxury, not a requirement. I see it being like the folks who still own record players to play their old 45s; owning physical books will be an expensive hobby.

I decided to write about this topic, because I was given a Barnes & Noble nook eReader for my birthday this week. After just a couple of days of reading, I can say I truly love it to the point that I plan on making 90% of my future book purchases electronic (I will still purchase hardbacks of my absolute favorites, because I like having them on my bookshelf as decoration).

As a writer, I find my mind more and more shifting to the possibilities of the electronic format, and have even lately started to think about the limitations of a strictly print format. We live in an age of bonus content and premium add-ons. How many of you purchased the Twilight or New Moon Deluxe edition DVDs so you could see that Stephanie Meyer interview? How many of you purchased the deluxe edition of the Harry Potter books so you could have the cool book cover and extra pictures? How many of you download the iTunes deluxe edition of your favorite band’s album so you can get the extra songs and videos? Fans want more content, and they’re willing to pay for it.

I don't see it as consumer exploitation, because if people weren’t buying it, they wouldn’t be offering it.  The consumer ultimately has the power.

Now think about your book. How cool would it be for your readers to be able to shell out a few more dollars and get a deluxe edition with chapter commentaries from you (the author), an original soundtrack with onscreen prompts that readers can use to play while reading specific scenes, and bonus artwork that corresponds to the various chapters, etc.? I know older readers will bemoan sensory overload, but if you’re an unpublished author you need to think about who the readers will be in 5-10 years, not just those who are reading right now. I work with those future readers, and they demand full sensory experiences in their reading, watching, and listening. Video games are getting more engaging, movies are getting more immersive, and books are becoming more action driven by the day. You think people have short attentions spans right now, picture that in 5, 10, and 15 years.

How would you use this kind of technology for the stories you’re working on, or would you use it at all?

Pertaining to my last post, I found this interesting article comparing the iPad bookstore iBooks to Amazon’s Kindle.


  1. Happy belated birthday! Hope you enjoyed it.

    Vook's not for me. I like my books to be books. I feel so old and boring saying that. I'm only 28, but I'm decidedly low-tech. I can get my computer to do anything I want it to. But I've never used an i-anything, an e-reader, am not on Twitter, and am online on Facebook after being dragged screaming and kicking.

    Can't say why though.

    That said, as an author, I'd never deprive my audience of anything. If possible my books will be available in hologram mode.Whatever the audience wants.

  2. Claire, thnanks for the birthday wishes! I had a good one ...

    It took my friends a long time to convince me to join Facebook as well. I'm kind of torn at the moment: I see all of these writers talking about Twitter, and it seems so very pointless to me (I barely get my Facebook status updated weekly). I suppose I'll have to take that plunge at some point, too.

    One question: do you think we'll ever get to the point where it's not enough for a "book to be a book"? That's what I'm pondering.

  3. Your blog is one of the most informative I've seen. Keep it up!
    --fellow AW follower SanStormin.

  4. It's hard to say. If you're comparing the transformation of music: vinyl, 8-track, cassette, DVD, MP3/I-Tunes then I can see what you're implying.

    I'm with Claire on this one. Staring at a screen too long hurts my eyes. I like the feel of a book in my hands. But if someone could hear a soundtrack playing along when they read my book, that might enhance the experience. I'm totally stuck between old world and new world.

    Happy Belated b-day!

  5. @ SanWrites: Thanks for reading!

    @ LB: I think there are similarities between how the music format has shifted over time, and how books are transitioning to the digital format. Obviously with books, there aren't as many steps in the process unless you count audio books (which I don't count, because you're not reading at all). Something can be read in portable fashion either on paper or electronically (no other way that I can think of).

    Enhancement is def. one way of looking at it. I guess I'm thinking more of an entirely new medium/experience. I still think with the eco-trending world we live in, and the rising cost of manufacturing (anything, really), we're headed toward a world with fewer physical books/media.

    Thanks for the belated wishes! I'll take them early, late, whatev ... it's always good to hear.

  6. Thanks for writing this thoughtful and thorough article about Vook. I love the line, "crazy mashup of literature and text."

    I also wanted to add that sometimes a Vook can be completely different than a book. One of our newest titles, "Mind in the Making," [http://bit.ly/cCvEkp] is a parenting text. The videos are of actual research, and guide parents through the steps of teaching life skills.

    Another title, "Best of Times," [http://bit.ly/cxcYuO] combines animated short films and NY Times columns from experimental artist Jeff Scher--and it's all set to music.

    In these cases, we really feel that Vooks represent a whole new medium of mixed media.

    -Rachel @ Vook

  7. @RB: I'll have to check out the "Best of Times" Vook. That sounds exactly like the kind of thing I was thinking about when I posted this.

    I love the idea of what you all are doing, and I really see it as a natural extension of electronic reading.

    No one thought digital music would catch on, no one believed that watching TV on the internet would catch on... this just proves that opinion doesn't always correlate to outcomes. As a writer, I'm always thinking about ways that my stories can most effectively be conveyed to the reader/consumer, and who's to say that that might not include something more than words?


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