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Marketplace Scratch Pad

Will you look at that vook?

Scott Jagow Oct 1, 2009

I know a vook sounds like one of the creatures in the Star Wars cantina scene, but it’s not. I’ll give you a hint. When I did a search for the word, Google came back with: Did you mean book?

Vook is both a company and a thing. It’s an e-book with video in it.

Today, publisher Simon and Schuster announced it was partnering with Vook to make vooks that will sell online and for the iPhone and iPod touch. Here’s S and S’s video demonstration:

Of the four titles offered at launch, two are instructional video-books, two are novels.

Oh boy. Novels?

The reviews I’ve read so far seem to agree — vooks might be a good idea for things like fitness, cooking or home repair, but adding video to a novel is weird and cheesy. From the LA Times:

First, there’s the strange flattening-out effect, in which a character that exists only in your imagination suddenly looks like someone, a specific actor-person. This is hard enough to make work in Oscar-worthy films, with extraordinarily talented, beautiful people stepping into the parts. But these aren’t going to be Oscar-winners.

Which comes to the second problem: production quality. It takes a lot of people — and money — to make a good film. For a while now, publishers have been making book trailers, online video shorts that promote upcoming novels. On the whole, they’re amateur: awkwardly lit, poorly acted, lousy costumes and sets, unevenly shot and roughly edited. Because publishers are in the business of making books, not videos.

But maybe that will change? Are we heading for a day when no one can make the comment, “the book is better than the movie?”

Unlikely. Then again, it wasn’t that long ago that people said oh, stop worrying, print newspapers will always be around…

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