Reading Galleycat’s piece on vook got me interested in looking at the product closer. Described on their 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”. The titles offered range from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories to Anne Rice’s “The Master of Rampling Gate”. There is even an interesting selection of nonfiction vooks made available, but what interests me are the fiction selections, particularly Rice’s involvement in this venture.
What we’re seeing here is yet another attempt to see beyond print. And while this looks like an honest effort on the part of vook, I have concerns over the writers chosen for this endeavor.
Stephen King tried this – albeit a less flashier version – back in 2000 with The Plant, a project King never finished because readers lost interest after the seemingly successful publication of the first part. And while one could argue it was the nature of the story itself that had readers disappearing (“. . . by the fourth installment, paid readers had dipped to 46 percent of all downloads”), I’d argue that King – while understandable – was the wrong choice for this experiment.
Here’s the thing. When I was in the States last December, I picked up a hardcover copy of King’s The Dome. Because I live abroad, I haven’t had the opportunity to pick up a fresh hardcover in a long time, which was something I did regularly – especially with King books – back when I did live in the States. The Dome is completely engaging and King’s confidence as a writer these days is nothing short of astonishing, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I loved having that book on my lap, the weight of it, the bulkiness of it, and there was a certain level of nostalgia that came with carrying this book around with me (especially on the 30 hour flight back home). This weight, for good or bad, is what I associate with King. And I’m willing to bet a lot of people associate the same thing when it comes to King and other writers of his generation.
Now I recognize that vook really isn’t for me. It may be big for the generation who associates books in terms of how much disk space they take, rather than shelf space. The vook is meant for the burst culture and completely bypasses all of the liberary techniques that have yet – and need – to be explored with print. But to use Rice, or King, for these kinds of experiments feels like wheel spinning.
I understand the need for name recognition for these kinds of projects, but I’d argue that to engage readers like me, vook needs to start offering amazing writers that I can’t access through other channels. Use all that advertising and technology to truly offer readers (veaders? viewders?) something that can’t be achieved in print through the vision of writers who see more than the page before them. Because all vook is doing is providing literary remakes to one generation that already experienced them the way they were meant to be and to another generation that’s scratching its head about who Rice is.
Check out vook’s website here. And let me know what you think.