Books With Video

In a response to the release of vooks, a video-book hybrid, Laura Miller asks, “Do Readers Really Want Video-Book Hybrids?” (Miller, you may recall, once attacked hypertext as, blaming it for the Postmodern attack on the seamless dreamtime of narrative.)

I think the answer to this question is a bit more complicated than Miller’s observation that many kids today are reading printed books to find “a welcome break from staring at screens all day.” The reaction to vooks has been pretty clear: people don’t want books interrupted by video; but does that mean they don’t want to the two to come together?

Good books offer readers complex narrative, interesting language, and most importantly, imagination. Good video offers beautiful visuals and can enhance the viewer’s experience through use of lighting, color, sound, and the composition of the shot.

If people weren’t interested in combining video with reading, the current video game market would never have gotten off the ground. Original Nintendo RPGs relied heavily on text delivering the story, and even the most recent Kingdom Hearts game for the PS2 has no less than a 10 minute introduction, conveyed through a combination of cutscenes and textual character dialogue.

The key component that these vooks are missing--and which video games and hypertext fiction offer--is interactivity.