Video + Book = Vook. But does it equal an advance in storytelling. I'll be straight with you -- no one wants to see interactive forms of fiction succeed more than I do. So if there's something good to say about technology applied to storytelling, I'm going to find it. Did I find anything good at the Vook store?
Let's start with my first Vook. I purchased Promises several months ago to read on my iPod Touch. It's an interesting idea, but the application was buggy and the platform too small to do it justice. This week I updated the app and loaded it on my new iPad. Much, much better! The video gave me a look at setting and time period that went far beyond what I imagined. That said, the whole experience is choppy. The navigation is clunky and confusing and getting between chapters and video took so long that it made me lose that story immersion. Below is a picture of what a page with text and video looks like. This instructions indicate you should click t0, "See what Jamie found. " But the story tells you what Jamie found, so you don't need to see the video. There are sections with video that do further story and character without repeating what has been said, but most of it is a repetition. It reminds me of fiction that shows you the same scene from the POV of different characters. I never was a big fan of that technique.
2. Call of the Wild, by Jack London
I revisited the Vook store last week to find something eye-popping to use when I do educational e-book demonstrations. I loved this book as a kid and thought it was a title most people would be familiar with. When I cracked open this Vook, surely the contrast between the old paper version and the video version would be jaw dropping. Well...
It wasn't, but it was better done. I love the video, the way the sepia toned images impart a sense of an earlier time, the way they use different narrators and the contrast of those unique voices, the gorgeous frozen landscapes, and the dog's-eye view of running a sled trail. Here again the narrator is telling the same story as the text, snippits, but the clips are compelling and I did look forward to the clip at the start of each chapter. There are links throughout the story that lead to Wikipedia articles with more information on a subject or to dictionary definitions of some terms. Navigation between chapters is better, but it moves in the opposite direction from navigation between pages which was confusing.
I had intended to download just the one extra story, but somehow I wound up with a copy of this next Vook, a free sample, on my iPad. A happy accident, because even though I might not have chosen this willingly, it was the jaw-dropper I was looking for.
3. Buddha Guide, by Deepak Chopra
If you get this book for no other reason than to enjoy the artwork, it is worth the money spent. The main text contains history, basic information on the Buddhist faith, and links to more information. What really shines in this Vook is the video story, narrated by Chopra, a stunning blend of art and music that illustrate the story of Buddha.
Buddha is available in iPhone, iPad, and an online version. I downloaded the free demo but I enjoyed it enough that I'll get the full version when I can get a fast Internet connection. Vook files are big, but the price tag on this one isn't and you can grab a demo and see for yourself at Vook.com.
Bottom line: Vooks are in their infancy, a new storytelling form that I hope will be around for awhile. I see each new effort improving on what was done before and I look forward to watching Vooks grow up.