I expect more from e-book apps. I keep waiting for the perfect e-book app to be released, you know the one that you look at, read, say “wow, now that’s a great book AND great technology.” Maybe I’m wrong in my expectations but surely, I can’t be the only one on the hunt. Perhaps I am expecting an author to have equal stake in the writing and the technical presentation of their work.
Iain Pears has always been an innovative author, telling stories backwards or the same story from various points of view but, in an interview with the Guardian, he explains that, in an effort to make things easier for the reader, he chose to develop an app for Arcadia.
Readers may choose from various streams of storytelling on the main map page at the beginning of the app. There are 10 storytellers and you may follow one stream or read the story from various viewpoints or read to a point and return to the intersection of stories and catch up with other storytellers.
It’s a great deal of work for a story that didn’t immediately capture my attention. Was I interested in reading another storyteller’s episode of the story? Not so much. Aside from the initial subway-inspired mapping of the story, the rest is black print on white background, no graphics, no pictures, no interaction. Much like other e-books, after the decision is made about which part of the story to read, the app continues in a very conventional e-book, or even book format.
And here it is – the one thing in an e-book app that will certainly garner a negative review, the reader must pay, while deep into the story, $5.49Cdn to continue. What? In that most awful of inventions, this e-book has subscribed to the “in-app purchase” debacle. The initial download of the app for iPhone or iPad (not Android) is free.
Even with what seems, for me, an unsatisfactory outcome, Arcadia did garner many good reviews and comments on its innovation. These are reviewers who have more patience than I do and a deeper reading commitment. The target audience is adult and it may be attractive to an advanced high school reader. A hard copy of the book is also available.
And so, my research continues, for an e-book app that could be used in a high school classroom, which has content that is riveting, graphics that hook the reader in and some interaction that keeps the reader onboard. Pears admits that this e-book took four and half years of development, three publishers, two designers, and four sets of coders. Perhaps my expectations are too high.