Technology changes at a dizzying rate, yet somehow our ways of writing about it don't. Take that hoary chestnut, the “future of the book” piece, which first appeared with the introduction of CD-ROM encyclopedias (remember Encarta?) in the late 1980s and achieved its nth iteration on Thursday, when a front-page story in the New York Times announced the debut of the “vook,” a video-book hybrid, four of which have just been released by Atria Books.
The unfortunately named vooks consist of text and video clips produced in concert to form integrated works. You can read/watch them with a Web browser, but they're primarily intended for mobile devices like the iPhone and meant to win over those people you see on the subway or in airports frantically pounding their thumbs through endless rounds of Frogger instead of reading a David Baldacci novel. The spectacle of people not reading in public has become a motivating trauma for many publishing executives of late. Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton Books, told the Times' Motoko Rich, “You see people watching these three-minute YouTube videos and using social networks, and there is an opportunity here to bring in more people who might have thought they were into the new media world.”