Byook is an interesting concept from the folks at Byook out of France. It takes the idea of the eBook one step further by adding complementary multimedia elements like sounds, animations, and extra pictures to try and enrich the reading experience with a little extra ambience and life. The first Byooks are available for the iPad and on Android devices and range in price from free samples to three dollars currently as standalone apps. And while it certainly adds something to the experience, it’s not necessarily going to be enjoyed by everybody.
For our review, we received The Adventure of the Speckled Band, a Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Since almost all of Doyle’s work is now in the public domain, there are no rights issues with republishing the book, thus keeping the price lower than a typical eBook. Indeed, the extra elements do add a certain something to the story, sometimes even bordering on creepy. There’s a particularly nice use of lightning and an ominous shadow at a certain point which freaked me out a bit, so I guess it was doing its job. I do have concerns that the sounds and animations (which for the most part are unobtrusive) might prove distracting though.
For some more perspective, I asked my oldest son Owen, 9, and my wife Tracy, both avid readers, for their thoughts on the Byook concept. There was some disappointment from both in the enhanced elements as they can give the appearance of interactivity, when none really exists. Tracy felt she was waiting for things to happen that never did. This was especially apparent when what seemed like obvious interactive elements would pop up, like a page blowing in the wind, or a calender. But touching these yielded nothing.
In addition, Tracy found that the animations and sounds tended to be a significant distraction from reading the actual story. Owen didn’t seem to mind as much, and he even commented that it was cool, and thought it gave a little more insight into what Arthur Conan Doyle was trying to convey.
While she wasn’t a fan (as an admittedly old school book reader she likely wouldn’t be), Tracy made the comment that she thought this could be a really interesting way to create Choose Your Own Adventure style eBooks. Touchscreens seem like an ideal vehicle to deliver these to a new audience being raised on technology.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Byook is an interesting and certainly polarizing concept. Reading purists, likely already turned off by the eBook idea, won’t appreciate the animation and sound elements as they’re too much of a distraction, and give an appearance of interaction that isn’t really there. People looking for a way to dress up a regular book will enjoy these a lot more, and the production values are very good. Luckily, the folks at Byook have a couple of free samples available for download for you to try and see which camp you fall into. I’d definitely recommend checking one of those out to see if the nature of the Byook enhances or detracts from the reading experience.
A review code was provided to GamerPops.