*Actor and author Blair Underwood has several books under his belt, but hopes to expand the reading experience with his next literary project via a new technology called Vook – which combines digital reading with high-quality video and illustrations.

“When you read a Vook, you periodically come across an icon. You push play, and that video comes to life for a minute or two,” Underwood explained to the Associated Press. It’s like a cross between a novella and a short film.

His Vook debut is in “Blair Underwood Presents: From Cape Town with Love,” the latest installment in the book series by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, where he plays the recurring character Tennyson Hardwick.

[Watch trailer below.]

The technology transforms reading the novel into a multimedia experience by abridging the text and supplementing video to move the story along. Instead of the hard copy’s 350 pages, the electronic version requires only 85 pages. But thanks to key scenes — ranging from two to five minutes — at the end of some chapters, the reader comes away with a full experience.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, so a two-minute scene can fill the void,” Underwood said.

While he hopes that traditional books don’t go away, Underwood realizes the world is changing. “The reality being that more people are reading books more online and Kindle.”

Capitalizing on the change of habit, he bought the rights to the book and two others in the series. His production company, Intrepid, shot scenes for the Vook with the same approach as if it were a feature film. Besides acting in each scene, Underwood directed them too.

“What I bring to the table is the cinematic expression of this story,” Underwood said. “I want the reader or the viewer to seem as though they have taken a glimpse inside the motion picture … the high production values make it feel like a big budget film.”

Vook launched its unique read-and-watch technology in October. Users can download books directly to their PC or through the Apple iTunes store for iPhone and iPad. The cost of the download ranges from $1.99 to $6.99, which is substantially less than Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook from Barnes and Noble.

Underwood compares the revolutionary technology to the advent of television.

“This Vook is the new frontier,” he said.