Another way to read paper-free, offers novels and other virtual books from publisher Simon & Schuster. Instead of using one of the dedicated electronic book viewer devices available, Vooks are used either on a computer or on an Apple App Store-enabled device. Four Vooks were released Thursday: two fiction and two non-fiction, with written, video and social elements working together to give a more immersive experience to the "reader." The reason for this multimedia hybrid, says the New York Times, is that some publishers believe that modern readers crave something different.

Virtual Books from With Video

Whether this strategy of a hybrid library will boost the marketability of new publications, or instead "degrade the act of reading" remains to be seen. As for the selection of titles at launch, there is one from each of the following genres: thriller, romance, fitness, beauty.

The hypothetical vook user - this is not a reader, so do we call her a vooker? Is that a legal profession? - will watch videos that are streamed from the site that supplement the written sections. In "Embassy," the thriller by Richard Doetsch, a newscast video progress the plot. "90 Second Fitness Solution" features instructional videos that teach fitness techniques more quickly and accurately than simple verbal description could hope to.

This new format has potential. Unfortunately, Jude Deveraux 's "Promises" does little to compensate for what seems to be an expensive novella with system requirements. But the releases do promise what is to come, and multimedia aficionados will welcome a change.

Another kink in the vook system: pricing and device support. The computer edition of a vook title costs $6.99, while the iPhone version is $4.99. But buying the first does not come with the second. This unfortunate situation is due to separate purchasing sites, says the Support page - one you buy from, the other you buy through Apple. Further, there is only support for a single smartphone.