Apps – The Future of Books?

Recently, I was listening to Poetry off the Shelf, a podcast from the Poetry Foundation, and heard about Faber’s new publication of T.S. Eliot’s modernist masterpiece, “The Waste Land.” While this poem is available in used and new bookstores, as print books, e-books, and audiobooks, there has never been an edition of the poem quite like this one: an iPad app.

Faber’s move to choose “The Waste Land” as one of its first publications on this medium struck me as brilliant. “The Waste Land” contains a number of voices, languages, literary and cultural references, and footnotes. What better way to embrace the poem’s heteroglossia than with a barrage of videos, annotations, and hyperlinks? In addition to the text of the poem itself, “The Waste Land” for the iPad includes readings from authors like Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney, and even a digital facsimile of the original manuscript!

Perhaps this doesn’t excite those of you reading this that did not major in English. But it should. Bringing e-books to this level of interactivity has the potential to affect every subject, regardless of content. Touch Press, the company which collaborated with Faber to produce “The Waste Land” for the iPad, has several additional iPad titles on subjects from periodic elements to dinosaurs. Penguin Books has also dipped into book apps, transforming Jack Kerouac’s On the Road into a multimedia adventure.

So why settle for e-books when there are now fully-functional applications that provide visual and aural goodies, as well as the material content itself?

“The Waste Land” iPad app has received favorable reviews from The Telegraph, Salon.com, and The New York Times. Are you an iPad owner? What do you think about applications as the new book medium?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s