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?