What is a “vook”?

Remember Vook?

Or, let’s take a step back:what is a vook? From the Vook website —

“A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.”

The concept was more than a little intriguing. And the vook catalog had a good start to it. But it seems that vook never reached critical mass with partnering with other book publishers, based on a quick look at Simon & Schuster list of book titles … well, hmm. Perhaps it was one of those six of one and half a dozen of the other sorts of things — that is, not quite a book, not quite a video, and therefore not quite appealing enough to the audiences interested in ebooks, or videos? Would you want to read a vook? In some cases, for certain kinds of books, the use of video certainly comes in handy. But there’s an argument to be made about whether adding multimedia content to the text takes you out of the immersive experience of reading.

In fact, that’s exactly the debate that some weighed in on, courtesy of The New York Times, “Curling Up With Hybrid Books, Videos Included” —

“in the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.

… Some publishers say this kind of multimedia hybrid is necessary to lure modern readers who crave something different. But reading experts question whether fiddling with the parameters of books ultimately degrades the act of reading.

“There is no question that these new media are going to be superb at engaging and interesting the reader,” said Maryanne Wolf, a professor of child development at Tufts University and author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.” But, she added, “Can you any longer read Henry James or George Eliot? Do you have the patience?”

Some authors believe the new technologies can enrich books. For his history of street songs in 18th-century France, Robert Darnton, director of the Harvard University Library, will include links to recordings of the actual tunes.

But Mr. Darnton, author of “The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future,” warned that reading itself was changing, and not necessarily for the better. “I think we can see enough already to worry about the loss of a certain kind of sustained reading,” he said.”

Yet, it seems that Vook has gone the same route as Push Pop Press, choosing to focus on creating a platform, instead of ebook titles. From TeleRead, “Vook stops publishing content — is there a market for enhanced ebooks?” —

“… we’re ceasing to publish content and moving instead to extend our digital publishing platform, VookMaker, as far and wide as possible. It’s a one-stop cloud based tool that lets you create great looking digital books, distribute them to the marketplaces and track their sales.”


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

tyler shores cambridge

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