Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vook out! Another digital fad!

Half Book-Half Video, All for naught

While I may be a book lover, that doesn't mean I'm reflexively hostile to any technological advance that is hailed as a replacement of the form. For example, while I resist traditional e-books because they involve either sitting at your uncomfortable desk chair or crushing your thighs with a laptop, the Apple Kindle seems promising because, by most accounts, it is light enough and easy-enough on the eyes to mimic a paperback. I may like the smell of wood pulp, but I have faith my senses could develop their own memory of any conduit or medium. If something replaces the book, let's recall the codex replaced the scroll, and certainly people were saying, at that time "I miss having to crawl across the floor to find a piece of text. It's not the same without that."

But the new Vook, produced by the company of the same name, seems destined to be soon forgotten. It's an e-book that integrates video into the text. Vooks can be viewed via an online application, no software (but you do have to pay), or can be downloaded to your Apple mobile device. So if you like reading but not for more than three minutes at a time, here you go. If you are too drowsy to picture the characters and the action, some of this has been done for you. Little snippets of video are, according to this review by's Laura Miller, "used to add atmosphere or to convey minor plot points." Miller points out the obvious, that you have to stop reading to watch the video. One wonders how these videos know exactly what you're missing from a traditional text and how they can supply it. It seems like an empty gimmick, and in the case of the snippet from Jude Deveraux's "romance novella" Promises, pictured above, with its invitation to "ride along," insulting to one's intelligence.

I recall an MTV promo in which the network poked fun of itself by having the wisecracking cab driver of a series of such promos remarking that videos take the image you have for a song and saying, no, that's wrong, it's supposed to look like this. It's hard to take serious umbrage at a medium for doing such a thing--your head-images will still be there, but it's also hard to imagine myself paying money for the inconvenience.'s lengthy review