Thursday, October 1, 2009
Can you imagine pulling out your iPod Touch and perusing a novel that, in certain chapters, includes embedded X-rated video passages? Just think of it. You're reading a hot bodice-ripper when, suddenly, the two characters portrayed on the "jacket" magically appear in a window on the screen of your reading device. Before your eyes they hungrily strip off each other's clothes and, grappling in a passionate clinch, fall onto the fourposter . . .
The "vook" -- a hybrid e-book enhanced by video -- is now appearing on the literary stage. According to this story in the New York Times, some authors are delighted by the possibilities of a new means of multi-media storytelling -- and some are appalled.
In my view, this hardly means the death of the printed book -- Mark Twain and Henry James will live forever between covers -- but it does suggest that our reading habits are changing faster than we had imagined.
Many of us are now absorbing most of our text on Kindles or iPods, but that is just a shift from one reading medium to another, from words on a device made of ink and paper to words on a device made of plastic and electronics. With the vook, is the the textual experience itself now changing, engaging a different part of our brains?
Maybe the idea is not so radical as one might think.
We've long had illustrated books in which paintings or photographs enhance the reader's understanding of the text. We've long had moving pictures, simply a different storytelling medium. Now the two familiar media are being melded, in many cases also with sound.
I do think the vook is one big new wave of the literary future, and can hardly wait to "read" one. Here are the first few offerings.