What It Takes

What It Takes

Rethinking Book

By Callie Oettinger | Published: March 30, 2012

I hesitated when I read the words video book in Steve’s upcoming post “Betting on Yourself, Part Two“.

Maybe video? Or video series? But, not book.

My early definition of books:

My childhood favorites—Tikki Tikki Tembo and Blueberries for Salare heavy on images. The images faded in grade school, forcing an egg-headed edition of Ramona Quimby, and Meg, Charles Wallace, and a tesseract, to appear in my head. The more I read, the more I ran into other book formats—hardcover, paperback, mass market, special edition . . . And, in the case of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, an obsessive interest in Michelangelo and “Winged Victory” was ignited, sending me off into encyclopedia reading, altering my understanding of books to include reference materials, and other non-story pages, sandwiched between covers.

With the intro of e-books, the sandwiched-between-covers bit of my book definition was edited out. The pages and words remained, read on a screen instead.

Audio Books forced a different understanding.

Some sidetracking on audio books here:

I was on the local from Washington, D.C., to New York City, stopping at what felt like every town along the way. The row in front of me featured a mother and pre-teenish son, with the mother’s friend across the aisle. The son sat quiet, headphones in his ears, Discman on his lap. The quiet was broken when he asked for a new book. His mother handed him an audio book. As he slipped the earphones back on his head and inserted the disc, his mother leaned over to her friend and said, “We love reading audio books.”

My inner snob shook her head at the mother. Such silliness. That’s not reading. That’s listening. And . . . I looked down on them, thinking about all they were missing out on because they weren’t reading.

This is where my early definition starts unraveling and my inner snob has the tables turned on her.

I grandfathered audio books into my definition because they are based on words-on-pages-to-be-read books. Listening provided the same experiences I had as a child, except with a stranger instead of my mother reading the books.

But what if a story exists on audio, but there isn’t a version to read? Does that mean it isn’t a book?

Should an audio book, without a traditional book pairing, be allowed to live under the title book?

Which brings us to video. Steve’s video book isn’t a direct reading of a traditional book. It features the listening experience of audio books, with a visual element, too.

Is it a book?

Back to my childhood understanding: Books ignite my imagination. They cause me to rethink what I know, to explore.

Are there other things that spark the same? Yes. Walking old battlefields, listening to veterans’ share their stories, spins my imagination off into other eras, encouraging me to dig for more.

And that gets me thinking pre-book, when stories and lessons were shared via oral histories, passed down through the generations.

Gutenberg’s press was a step toward mass sharing, toward other formats. But the core—the  main focus—has remained on stories and lessons.

So if Steve is sharing stories and lessons—and if a book is about preserving and sharing—then yes, video and book should be paired.

Today, there’s a great focus on reading books. However, books weren’t created to encourage reading. They were created to preserve the oral histories and to share.

Back to Steve’s video book. Am I comfortable with the term now? Yes.

Ultimately, it is the preserving and the sharing that does the greatest good. Reading is important, but we aren’t all readers. It isn’t the end-all-be-all, best-way-to-learn for everyone.

But the preserving and sharing? Yes. That’s the best way.

Don’t get stuck on titles for formats.

Get the lessons out there. Share the stories.

(Callie’s note: I jumped the gun on this post. I wrote it after reading Steve’s post slated for this Wednesday, and forgot about the timeline until I went to post it. . . Please read Steve’s April 4 Writing Wednesday column for more . . .)

Posted in What It Takes

7 Responses to “Rethinking Book”

  1. March 30, 2012 at 10:45 am

    “Share the stories.”

    Pretty much the whole point–thanks Callie.

  2. March 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Nice piece, Callie.

  3. March 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Well, now the suspense is killing me.

  4. Sonja
    March 30, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    So true! Took me awhile to getting around to audio books, but now they supplement my reading in the car. :)

  5. March 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I think the word “book” will always mean a printed folio to me. But story telling, keeping stuff alive: I want a new word for all the media we use for that.

    Man I sound old sometimes.

  6. basilis
    April 1, 2012 at 1:36 am

    I hadn’t actually considered that book-audio-video could be combined this way. It seemed somehow weird. But it’s the ”share the stories” that Callie says that make me see it in a different way.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  7. Tina
    April 1, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    My first audio book was Gates of Fire. I read the book too, but when I was doing a lot of traveling by car, audio books were a godsend and I enjoyed Gates of Fire even more the second time by just listening — did the same with Tides of War. Somehow, wanting to curl up with an electronic box to hear a book has no appeal — but in a heartbeat I will slip in a CD while driving and be very happy I did.

    Looking forward to Steve’s Wed post.