Thursday, October 01, 2009

Video + Book = ?

Remember how I was ranting about video ads in print magazines?

Vooks are ebooks with video interspersed through the text. And while there is no print involved with Vooks, some people (like me) don't really like to read long texts on a screen. I prefer online for short texts and print for long ones. And since there are still a lot of people like me who want physical books, anyone who desires to make money will try to get their text into as many formats (i.e. markets) as possible.

With those ultra-thin video screens they're designing for magazines, they could make print editions of these Vooks (minus the social networking aspects, unless some clever person figures out a way to build a wireless connection into a print book). Of course, I hope the next company to get in the game comes up with a better name than "Vook."

Now, I wouldn't want all of my books to have videos. The whole point of reading a novel, for me, is to enjoy the pictures that form in my head. I'd just as soon not have that spoiled by someone else's idea of what the characters and setting look like.

However, for illustrated children's books, how-to manuals, textbooks, and many other types of print material, accompanying videos might be very appealing. But let me tell you, if a video is integral to the text, I'd MUCH rather have it physically embedded in the book than have to stop reading, head over to the computer or dig some electronic device out of my bag, and go online, as you'd have to do if you were something like Anthony E. Zuiker's Level 26: Dark Origins. (I haven't read it, so I have nothing to say for or against the book. I'm just pointing out its existence as a hybrid text, which I wouldn't have even known about if it hadn't been mentioned in the New York Times article.)

At that point, you really cease to have a book. You have something new. That's not necessarily bad, but reading a text in a linear fashion--with no hyperlinks, no video, nothing but you and the printed word--engages the brain in a different way than one typically interacts with an electronic text. I don't know about you, but when I read something online, I tend to follow links, check out less-familiar terms in Wikipedia, shoot off the occasional email, then return to the text. Before I finish an article, I might have ten related browser tabs open. In other words, when I read online, I multitask.

Reading offline, in print, provides the opportunity to monotask. That's not something we do a lot of in the modern world. And I think it's something we need.

So maybe we don't need videos embedded in our books. I'm sure someone will do it anyway. People will always experiment with combining technologies in all kinds of ways. Some will fail, and some will take off and change our society. But I think there will always be a place for the old fashioned print novel alongside all the new forms of storytelling. The new hybrid books will not supersede the original; there's plenty of room for coexistence. We need different formats for different experiences, and I think people like to be able to change pace once in a while.


Revelations said...

Great idea, I think. Probably a hand-held vook is in our future.

Joholdenhan said...

Is it just me or does "vook" sound like a foreign swear word?

Anj said...

Yeah, "vook" is a horrible word. It just sounds bad.