The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

43° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

A Book is a Book is a…Vook?

Call me a Luddite, but I take umbrage at the ‘Vook,’ whose name implies an infernal desire to wheedle its way into our lexicon as a catchy neologism a la iPod and iPhone. The Vook seems to harbor latent aspirations of casting itself as the superior of the book, which (forfend!) may all too soon be rendered an antiquated form of expression. For those unfamiliar with this latest hybrid innovation, a vook claims to ‘blend a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story.’ Such an arbitrary statement egregiously implies that any book without video supplements is not ‘complete.’ Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., recently published four vooks: The 90-Second Fitness Solution by Pete Cerqua, Return to Beauty by Narine Nikogosian, Embassy by Richard Doetsch, and Promises by Jude Deveraux, the last two of which are fictional works. The online versions of Embassy and Promises cost $6.99 each while the iPhone App versions cost $4.99. Neither of these titles is available in print format; they are sold exclusively as vooks.

The act of combining two mediums as disparate as books and videos is tantamount to the genesis of an infertile and torpid mule by a donkey and a horse. Adding videos to fictional works is anything but a salutary solution for elucidating intricacies of plots and subplots. Doing so is commensurate with an atavistic regression to the days of codified cognition, and presages an evermore homogenized lingua franca. In seeking to augment a reader’s understanding of the text, such officious videos serve only as affronts to the reader’s imagination, which is consequently enervated by underemployment. Americans don’t need another excuse to lead vegetative existences, forsaking the subtleties of riveting prose for derivative travesties of insight.

Bradley Inman, the founder and CEO of Vook contends that the videos integrated into the texts ‘create a seamless new reading experience that will energize and engage readers far more than the one-dimensional e-book options currently on the market.’ This peroration has a central orifice through which all reasoning dissipates. Just how ‘seamless’ can the reading experience be if one is to watch 17 videos within the 131 pages of Promises (averaging one video for every eight pages), and 13 videos within the 125 pages that comprise Embassy (averaging a video per ten pages)? And just how insightful can the videos be before devolving into eviscerating, redundant summations of plot that any respectable editor would have excised from the text? In spite of any intrinsic merit the videos themselves may have, they are certainly more disruptive to the flow of the actual narrative than any prolix footnote can ever hope to be. Furthermore, the Vook website sanguinely proclaims that ‘No genre is off limits. We hope to cover every genre of books.’ This improbable statement adumbrates the indiscriminate selection of works for publication as vooks based on the spurious pretense of enlightening readers.

While a few books (mostly in the nonfiction domain) can benefit from instructional videos, this conceit alone is hardly enough to justify the production of vooks of fictional ilk. I am wary of any author who sanctions his or her work to be published with, essentially, the ‘insights’ of other persons imbedded within the actual story. As Anne Bradstreet advised to her ‘ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain’ in her poem ‘The Author to Her Book,’ ‘If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none.’ Authors can and should be inspired by other wordsmiths, and it is practically de rigueur nowadays for them to have arrays of people who, in the vein of Bradstreet’s metaphor, help raise their child, but all the creative content should be solely theirs, should only bear traces of the author’s DNA and maternal life-force. Any attempt by a third party to add lackluster or mediocre content to an author’s vision constitutes a breach of inviolable trust between author and reader. A good work of fiction should be able to stand on its own, sans appurtenances. Indeed, the concept of the video segments seems like a farcical interpretation of the appended ‘Further Resources’ or ‘Notes’ at the end of some books. The videos, at best, can serve as temporary respites for the reader from the wearying effect of reading pages of text on an electronic device, and at worst, can leave the reader feeling embittered for having been deprived of the best interpretation of all: his or her own. The truth is that text is simply not fungible with video segments, and Vook’s quixotic aim to express the ineffable nuances that invariably accompany delineations of character, setting, and plot ruefully deprives its mission statement of credence.

Lest my sentiments be conveyed as tendentious diatribe, I won’t begrudge a vook its quintessential entertainment factor. In fact, one book I’d really like to read as a vook is Going Rogue, An American Life by Sarah Palin, but as the hardcover won’t be released for another month, I’ll have to settle, in the meantime, for Tina Fey’s impressions on ‘SNL.’

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (0)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *