July 6, 2010 02:33
A recent edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin published by Vook under ordinary circumstances would not merit a review since publishers have kept the autobiography on the market for well over 200 years. In addition to being the grandfather of the self-help, do-it-yourself industry — so much a part of the American ethos — Franklin was an inventor and printer. How fitting then that Vook, innovators of book production, have made The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin available for purchase online in a new form of enriched ebook.
With this technology readers may access features such as video and animation that help to introduce the classical material. The vook format also allows readers to connect directly through social media with friends or fellow students, all without switching platforms.
Yet, trying to review a vook book makes me decidedly uncomfortable, all too aware of my limited computer skills. I think of myself as a third or fourth grader rather than as a postgraduate student. What I have to fall back on is my subjective response to this new form of reading. Clearly I’m no expert. It’s the first time I’ve read and witnessed a vook. With those caveats, here is my subjective summation.
The supplementary information presented in the videos was illuminating. I enjoyed the live commentary of experts. For example, I learned about Franklin’s relationship with his wife and his flirtations with French women after her death. The flesh-and-blood Benjamin Franklin that emerged complements his portrait on the $100 bill.
I would have appreciated more variety in the prints and paintings selected to enhance the text. The videographers need not have limited themselves to the few existing portraits of Franklin, and might have shown more scenes and artifacts of life in the Philadelphia of his time.
Excitingly, there is room for Vook to grow and innovate further, to creatively extend this new format. I plan to return to the site for additional purchases. My guess is that Franklin would approve of this invention — and be pleased to be part of its timely debut.