Vook and others creating Amplified Books to garner bigger Audiences

I read, this week, in my Sunday paper a small blurb about Penguin Publishing group, in conjunction with Starz Entertainment, creating what is being called an “Amplified Book.” I’m sure it’s only a natural progression, following (or stepping) on the heals of the e-book. Just as the film industry started including “extras” on their DVDs, so too will the publishing industry include video and audio clips with their e-books to “enhance” the experience. I can see this working nicely for certain instructional books — cookbooks that include a video clip on how to debone a duck (oh if Julia Child were alive), or Yoga books that include a short clip on poses, but how does this translate to those books in which the imagination plays a major role?

A company in California, called Vook, already creates “video books” that, according to their Web site, “blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen…

I love the fact that they’re attempting to make the reading experience bigger and more social, but why is it that a well written, well told story is no longer enough? And why do we no longer, as a society, appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into the forming of the book-as-object? The paper, the typeset, the covers, the words?

In an earlier post, I spoke about Matt Stewart’s French Revolution, a book he published in 2009 on Twitter 140 characters at a time. Stewart’s book, now published as a printed book (released July 2010), has a partner Web site with downloadable applications that tie in to his novel. Gimmick-y, for sure, but kind of neat, right? So, where do we draw the line? (or do we?) When is a book no longer a book? When you watch it, maybe?

There is a long history of enhancing the experience one has as a story is read or listened to. The theater came out of the oral tradition of story telling, as did music, illuminations, sculpture, paintings, mosaics, movies, radio, TV, smell-o-vision (just to name a few)….

At this rate, you have to think it won’t be long before we have Holodecks (a la Star Trek NG)  in which the story is acted out all around us.

Still, I think I prefer the solitary book in its analog form. No video except that which I create in my own head. No link buttons or keyword tags. Just paper, ink, board and cloth bound by thread, glue, and the limits of my imagination.

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