Boyd Tonkin: The Sonnets app is a digital delight. Next? I'd opt for Blake

The week in books

"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;/ But you shall shine more bright in these contents/ Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time." In his 154 sonnets, William Shakespeare often marries the lover's self-abasement with the poet's self-glorification. But, if his maker's pride seldom tops the claims of immortality voiced in Sonnet 55, then even the mighty rhymster might have gasped in awe at the latest medium to carry his verse. For the best results, it needs another sort of tablet to the stone kind that Will imagined in the graveyard, cracked and stained.

On 28 June, Faber & Faber releases an app of the Sonnets. It follows their multi-media version of TS Eliot's "The Waste Land". That not only raised the bar for literary apps but earned back the six-figure outlay its development required. Faber has again collaborated with digital publisher Touch Press, with film elements produced by TV company Illuminations and the Arden Shakespeare edition providing text, notes and commentary. Other publishers have begun to explore the potential of high-level apps of classic works. Profile recently released an interactive take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, with multiple narrative pathways for users keen to find their own way through the tale.

Compared to this sort of inbuilt interactivity, Faber's Sonnets offers more of a traditional immersion. You don't have the option to adopt the POV of the Dark Lady or the fair youth. Instead, 40 different readers – introduced by the august tones of Patrick Stewart – invite us to boldly go through the sequence of poems. You can watch them read the verse, with or without the Arden text and its famously exhaustive notes.

The cast-list is stupendously strong. David Tennant's four sonnets include 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate") - surely a favourite for the "share" function added after requests from users of the "Waste Land" app. Fiona Shaw reads five, and Dominic West four. Kim Cattrall opens the show with number 1 ("From fairest creatures we desire increase"), while Stephen Fry bags the satirical outlier of 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"). Not only star actors perform the poems. Shakespearean specialist Ben Crystal gives his approximation of Shakespeare's own pronunciation, rugged and lilting at once. Cicely Berry, voice director of the RSC, chips in with the post-coital self-disgust of number 129: "The expense of spirit in a waste of shame/ Is lust in action". Poet Don Paterson not only reads but adds his own more personal commentary (drawn from his book Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets) to complement the Arden scholarly apparatus.

For Faber's digital project manager Eoin Noble, the notes matter as much as the stellar reciters: "We've given them a lot of love and attention. They really do behave in a joined-up way." Overall, the "high production values" signal Faber's intention to reach an audience which hankers for more than a throwaway app costing 99p. The Sonnets, which cost around £100,000 to develop, will sell at £9.99: "higher priced but reasonably priced," Noble suggests.

Thanks to the steep expense of such top-drawer digital partnerships, it's unlikely that scores of such apps will land on our devices soon. Canonical works with a global reach, and preferably out-of-copyright texts, will yield the richest pickings. "It's important that these apps are world-wide releases," Noble notes. A wish-list of app-friendly classic verse springs pretty easily to mind.

Given the centrality of the poet's own artwork, I would be inclined to start with Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience. But for now, a mere tenner will unlock new doors into the Sonnets. In its 40-part polyphony of voices, the app affirms that (as 81 uncannily predicts), "Your monument shall be my gentle verse,/ Which eyes not yet created shall o'er-read,/ And tongues to be your being shall rehearse/ When all the breathers of this world are dead."

Plain 'Jane': sexier than an erotic mash-up

Just when we thought that the post-Fifty Shades of Grey spurt of erotica could not get much sillier comes news of Jane Eyre Laid Bare, a debut novel by Eve Sinclair which its author calls "an erotic version of my favourite classic". As if the original by Charlotte Brontë (pictured) were not one of the most sulphurously sexy works of fiction ever. As if a dose of pulp could compete with everything that readers have done with Jane and Rochester in their imaginations since 1847. Perhaps we need a counter-trend: chaste versions of erotic classics. How about Lady Chatterley's Neighbour, in which a polite gamekeeper discusses the dire effects of industrialisation with his employer over an innocent pot of Earl Grey?

Diplomats who slam the doors

Last month, at the Jerusalem International Writers Festival, I was eager to hear again from Boualem Sansal, whom I had interviewed in London during Jewish Book Week in 2011. The Algerian novelist is best known here for his bold family saga An Unfinished Business, which ties the history of the Holocaust to extremist ideologies at work in the Arab world today. He spoke movingly, even if I worried that questioners paid too much attention to his presence in Jerusalem (in defiance of a kind of anathema issued against him by Hamas) rather than the substantial themes of his work.

Sadly, however, the curses continue. Sansal recently won the "Arab Novel Prize" in France for his latest book, Rue Darwin. On 6 June, he was due to receive the award at a ceremony convened in Paris by the Council of Arab Ambassadors in France, first patrons of the prize. They cancelled it. Why? Because the winner had gone to Israel. To their huge credit, the jury – among them, French literary giants of Arab heritage such as Tahar Ben Jelloun – have broken with the envoys and are seeking a new sponsor.

Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
    Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

    Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

    As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
    Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

    A tale of two writers

    Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
    Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

    Should pupils get a lie in?

    Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
    Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

    Prepare for Jewish jokes...

    ... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
    SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

    A dream come true for SJ Watson

    Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    10 best cycling bags for commuters

    Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
    Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

    Paul Scholes column

    Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?