Thursday, October 1, 2009

turn the page see the video

NYT reported on a new type of book this morning as something called a vook which is begin marketed as a digital hybrid of video and text. While navigating through the prose the reader can then view a video that 'adds' content and flavor to the work. This approach to a certain extent makes sense with some books that this is being applied such as exercise or how-to books. However, in my humble opinion, the inclusion of images/background into a fictional/non-fictional/biographical text continues to move towards removing any work from the part of the reader. Granted, not all books should be work to read but, again my opinion, the good and really good ones are work. In a closely related article this morning, also from NYT, the idea of reading and some of the implications of the vook are explored in greater detail garnering quotes from both sides of the process. About halfway through the article a publisher is quoted as wanting to add music/perfume to the text with the goal of wanting " use all the senses". The first question to this statement is why? Why does a text need to reflect the pretty smells of a text or be stimulated by other sensory input? What is added? If you want a pretty smelling book I would suggest going to your local library and perusing their used book table/rack. Find as many trade paperbacks as are there and start smelling. I can almost 100% guarantee that one of those books is going to smell like perfume. Problem solved. Besides all the implications of reading as a past time being lost as the book struggles to find its way through this 'late of age of print' as Striphas refers to it, there is also the question of how does this benefit the reader's experience. For the book on 18th century French street music that has links to the tunes, that makes a lot of sense because the linking provides outside support rather than attempting to help carry the story. The counter-argument could be made that including some video in a fiction book provides the same support but I believe that the philosophy of inclusion is different. While there may be a side product of entertainment when listening to the clips of French music the only goal of a video inclusion in a fiction work is entertainment, at least based on what is included here. Is the publisher looking to help the reader or simply sell more titles? Is the goal here consumption control or is it consumer benefit? To a certain extent, this thing called the 'vook', absolutely horrible name, helps to illustrate what Ted Striphas in his recent book 'The Late Age of Print' recognizes as the tension between moving images and text. (I'm currently finishing up this book and will post some thoughts on it.) The vook is a logical conclusion of attempting to resolve some of those tensions. Unfortunately, based on these articles, it comes across as a cheap hack rather than a thoughtful development.

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