In this morning’s New York Times, Brad Stone reports on Vook.tv, a attempt to create a multimedia hybrid tailored to digital reading devices that incorporates fiction, video, and a Twitter stream. Bradley Inman is the entrepreneur behind the idea; he is also an author who wrote his own thriller and hired a company to film two dozen short video to supplement the book’s action. I’ve attempted to see what this new startup is all about, but so far have only been able to ask for an introduction to their beta site.
I’m as interested in anyone in the future of fictional narratives with respect to advancing technology, but what I am getting quite weary of is the approach that Stone takes here in trying to predict the future of the book. First of all, the word ‘book’ isn’t a fixed concept but a nebulous one, and the current discourse surrounding this issue is mostly meaningless without pinning down a definition. But secondly, why can’t we just view new narrative forms like Vook as a separate thing?
Video games didn’t exist thirty years ago, yet now one can immerse themselves within a second person narrative that also gives them agency. Yet we don’t lament the shift of books from musty, paper tomes to electronic and interactive because of this. Stone brings up the ominous Kindle, but fails to recognize that the Kindle as it stands now is merely replicating the physical writing space in n electronic one, not creating something new. Vook is way ahead of the Kindle with respect to new narrative devices, yet Stone just lumps it all together. This article should be less about the future of publishing and more about the new opportunities technology is giving to producers of fictional content.
I’ll be keeping an eye on Inman’s Vook.tv to see where he’s going with the idea and how successful such an attempt will be, but I’ll be happy to look at it as a new form of storytelling rather than as a potential precursor to he death of publishing.