Thursday, May 6, 2010

Vooks & Other Electronic Nonsense

I read in Writer's Digest yesterday about the newest publishing phenomenon: vooks. Video combined with books to create a multi-media reading experience. When I was ranting to Jason about this last night, he said, "Isn't combining pictures and music with a story a movie?" Exactly.

Recently we rented a DVD and one of the previews was for the newest generation of Blu-ray technology. A prominent feature was Instant Messaging with your friends WHILE you watch the movie. Seriously? Teens can't just watch a movie now, they have to text on their phone and IM on the touch-TV screen at the same bloody time? As it is, most kids born after the mid-eighties can't have a conversation without surfing the net, texting, talking on their cell phone, playing their DS or being otherwise insanely distracted from the person they are "speaking" to.

I worry that we are creating a very bad ADHD vortex for young people with all of these frantic electronic choices. Whenever I go out for dinner, I'm always dismayed at the tables with two bored parents people-watching while their pre-teens type away on their phones or have their noses pressed up to their DS's. It's easy for me to criticize this because I'm not there yet with my kids. I'm not saying the teen years are a breeze and every family should be actually conversing while at dinner together, but if we don't limit the electronic assault on our kids, they will be washed away in the tide and the quality of our family lives will be damaged.

This article on vooks said that for novels, they have graphic designers choosing photos and music to go with the text, effectively removing the personal imagination from the process. Books are important because they transport you to another world in your mind, and my idea of each character will differ from the next reader's, and that is the magic inherent in reading. I would never want a novel that has been designed graphically for me by someone else's vision. No thanks.

And self-help or non-fiction vooks with links embedded in the text to research more information about the topic? That's called the internet. In the insane effort to make a buck and be ahead of the electronic revolution, all of the forms of electronic media are doubling up on each other. I think it's very sad. I sincerely hope that in ten years my kids will still have the choice to read a book on their own, with no electronic interference, if they so choose. Will we hit a saturation point with all of these choices? When will publishers consider that the "dumbing-down" factor has been fully achieved?

I realize that I sound like an 85 year old here, shaking my stick and mumbling about young people while I rattle my dentures around in my mouth. I know my voice isn't going to stop this deluge of electronic schizophrenia from continuing to grow. But I do worry about the lasting effects on the next generation. I'd love to hear some opinions on this. Am I an old-fashioned fuddy duddy? Is there a good side to offering e-books with video and additional information embedded in them? Am I missing something fabulous here with my puritan approach to books as a way to stimulate our imagination? I'd love to hear what you think.


  1. I hate to say it but this phenomenon is not limited to teens...

    In the same restaurant where you see kids with cells and Nintendo DS, how many adults do you see with Blackberry's/iPhone's (and yes I know I am guilty of this too)?

    The key is there is a time and place for everything.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Adam. I agree that adults are guilty of this too, but I want to believe that adults have learned how to enjoy a book without graphics to accompany it, where kids may grow up and not learn how to do this because the graphics are already provided.

    I also think that the time and place lines are blurring so rapidly that electronic media is taking over ALL of the time, and this concerns me, but I see no way to stop it.

  3. If you are an "old-fashioned fuddy duddy", then so am I - and I am a few years younger than you!
    I can't stand the fact that everywhere you look, someone has some sort of electronic device attached to them, demanding their constant attention!!
    Do we really need to be "available" 24 hours a day? Can we really not stand the sound of our own thoughts, therefore we need to be listening to music ALL the time?
    Yes I have a cell phone, but it is a basic, all-you-can-do-is-make-a-phone-call kind of phone. I know that technology is necessary, and I AM a self-professed Facebook junkie, but a lot of the stuff just seems so unnecessary! Sorry, maybe I should do my own blog post about this topic! lol!

  4. Thanks, Jenn! I completely agree with you. It's so much worse to have Blackberries and be working all the time, a slave to it's every vibration and beeping noises. I miss the days when work would end and you would have leisure time; now it's all mixed up together.

    The worst part is the futility of fighting it, because you know it's just going to get worse. I worry for our kids, for what the world will be like when they are teens and in their 20's as it relates to the evolution of electronics.

    I'll definitely read your blog post on the subject! :)

  5. The same fears have exsisted for as long as history. I suspect our kids will be fine, and though their world may look different they will find peace and enjoyment nonetheless.

  6. I'm sure people have feared for the next generation for as long as mankind has been around, but I don't think technology has ever moved as quickly as it is right now, and the way it divides our attention and separates us from human contact is where my concern comes in.

    I like your positive attitude about the future for our kids...I suppose it's better to hope for the best than worry about the worst.