The Writers Circle

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What the heck is a VOOK?

What the heck is a VOOK?

It’s been all the buzz in the publishing industry lately. Apparently (and I haven’t seen it yet) it’s a digital book with video. The books are mostly short, with fiction and non-fiction titles including a couple written by bestselling authors specifically for the new technology.

We’ve come a long way from Gutenberg’s machine.

This is a Vook.

This is a Vook.

The Vook is just one of what promises to be a whole slew of new technologies that the publishing world is trying in an attempt to make books sexier, more accessible and appealing to the digitized world.

But what are all these enhancements really adding to the reading experience?

I remember when reading required no more electricity than it took to power a light bulb; and the only sounds it made, besides my own breathing, were the voices of the characters in my head. I relish that silence and the simplicity of reading. So perhaps I’m in no position to judge.

Perhaps the issue now is to adjust our concept of the activity we call “reading” in the first place. Is it still reading when it talks and moves? Or is it some new form of entertainment? When television was first developed, they came up with a whole new word to describe it. It was entirely different from theater and movies. So is this Vook a variation on a theme or some new species? Someone please enlighten me.

And, speaking as a creator of stories using only words, how do individuals create for this new technological entity? It’s no longer the work of a single-minded writer. A Vook, or any other digitally enhanced version of a book, requires a team with digital expertise, expensive equipment, a cast of actors and, most importantly, a budget. The beauty of writing for me has been (among other things) that I could go open my .doc file or a spiral-bound notebook anytime and anywhere I liked, and simply go to work. I could do it all by myself, hour after hour indulging my imagination; and when I was finished, I had created an entire world.

In this rapidly changing literary landscape, how long will that last? At the most basic level, it feels to me like an inalienable right for one person to ink their innermost imaginings onto a page using no more specialized knowledge than good basic writing skills, time, practice and sheer determination.

But perhaps my questions are moot. As technology has a tendency to become rapidly user-friendly, I can easily imagine a not-too-far-away future when all our kids will be making Vooks on their laptops during recess. But for now, for me, the singular experience of self-expression that writing has been seems under threat of extinction.

If I’m a dinosaur, then so be it. (May future readers love my words as well as my kids love the dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History!)

About Judith

Judith Lindbergh's latest novel, Pasture of Heaven, is about a nomad woman warrior on the Central Asian steppes in the 5th century BCE. (And there really were!) Her first novel, The Thrall's Tale, is a literary historical novel about three women in the first Viking Age settlement in 10th century Greenland. The Thrall's Tale was a Booksense Pick and a Borders Original Voices selection. Judith is also the founder and director of The Writers Circle, a creative writing program offering workshops for children and adults.

One comment on “What the heck is a VOOK?

  1. Matthew
    October 16, 2009

    Judith,

    This is Matt from Vook. I just wanted to drop by and let you know I enjoyed your post. And I wanted to clear a few things up: No one at Vook wants to destroy books or even change the way people read. In fact, we at the company probably read a lot more books than your average reader. If anyone’s going to be looking out for the future of reading, you should probably count on the guy who just brought four new works of literary fiction, two memoirs, and a National Book award winner.

    What we’re doing with Vook is building a new platform to tell stories. We’re giving people new ways to express themselves. The integration of video with text will let non fiction authors transmit a whole new range of information. Creative fiction authors will see the potential for the medium and figure out how to tell really amazing stories with it.

    We like to think we’re broadening the potential for story telling, not sexing anything up. I’d really encourage you to try a vook or two and see what we’re talking about. I want you to look for the potential in the Vook medium and think about how it could craft exciting narratives AND bring people back to reading who might have drifted away.

    Please contact me at Matthew@vook.com if you have any questions.

    Thanks!

    Matt

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