What the Heck is a Vook?

The Master of the Rampling Gate by Anne Rice

I consider myself both a bibliophile and a technophile but up until a few days ago, I had never heard of a vook. And just what the heck is a vook, you ask? Created by Vook.com, it’s a video-book hybrid that integrates video and hyperlinks into a book. You can read/watch on your laptop using a web-based application or on your iPhone using the Vook app.

Last week, Vook released Anne Rice’s 1984 short-story The Master of the Rampling Gate. She’s by far the biggest name author to release a story in this format and I think Vook is hoping to capitalize on the popularity of vampire fiction. For a limited time it’s only .99 (instead of 4.99), so I decided to give it a try. Since I frequently use the Kindle for iPhone app, I decided to buy the Vook iPhone app for The Master of the Ramping Gate (each book comes in a separate app). Here’s are two screenshots of the vook:

Vook screenshot

As you can see above, it’s very similar to the Kindle app, with a few exceptions. First, there are hyperlinks in the text and when you tap on them, you get more information. Many of the links take you to the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word, but a few, like “mullioned windows” take you to a Wikipedia entry. I found this feature to be extremely helpful because I had no idea what a mullioned window was this allowed me to see what it looks like. This was actually my favorite feature because it really enhanced the book. However, unlike the Kindle app, it doesn’t remember your place in the book. So when you leave the app and come back, finding the page where you left off was a huge hassle.

vook video

There are also 7 short videos (most are under 2 minutes) available to watch and they include interviews with Anne Rice and a short tour of New Orleans. The videos are located at the beginning of each chapter so you can watch the videos as you read along or you can find them under the “Watch” tab to view whenever. I thought the videos might be distracting but I ended up enjoying them because they are short and relevant (Rice explains the characters and what’s happening in the story).

I actually ended up liking the vook a lot more than I thought I would. The Master of the Rampling Gate is very short though, and a regular price of $4.99 might be a bit high. The current selection is limited, but if a few more big name authors sign up I can see this idea taking off (especially with the upcoming release of the Apple iPad).

So what do you think of this idea? Do you think the ebooks and vooks are the future of book publishing? Or do you prefer the feel of paper in your hands?

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