Digital literature: Coming to a small screen near you...
Christmas books of the year
Sunday 18 December 2011
Although industry experts predict a digital literature boom next year, a lot of inspiring work has already hatched during 2011.
Marcus Chown's The Solar System for iPad (Faber/Touch Press £9.99) marries his lively, accessible text to Touch Press's trademark spinning images. While solar storms flare and planets, moons, a bowl of porridge and other edible items rotate at the flick of a finger, you can read from the sun to the dwarf planet Eris and beyond, or planet-hop at whim.
Sydney Padua's online comic 2D Goggles, or The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is now an iPad app (Agant Ltd, £1.99 per episode). Padua has drawn her heroine and hero into an alternate 19th-century universe, where they "successfully developed the computer in the mid-1830s ... and used their combined powers to fight crime and have adventures". Huge imaginative fun, laced with reproductions of (real) historical documents.
Loss of Grasp (lossofgrasp.com, free), "a digital creation about the notions of grasp and control" by Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert, won the 2011 New Media Writing Prize. Six poetic scenes – for which audience participation is essential – explore relationships and "the reader's experience of an interactive digital work". It's clever, dreamily engrossing and English-French-Italian trilingual.
For a younger audience, the FutureBook Innovation Award-winning Cinderella app (Nosy Crow, £5.49) is delightful. It's a straight retelling, beautifully animated, with loads of hand-eye co-ordination enhancing interactivity (tidying up crockery, invitations and mice), plus added table tennis. HarperCollins's Paddington Bear (£3.49), developed in consultation with Paddington's creator Michael Bond, provides less to play with but transposes all the endearing charm of the original into this new medium. The narration by Paul Vaughan is deliciously marma- ladey and you can also record or video your own version.
A welcome development in plain text ebooks is the introduction of essays (and short stories) sold individually and designed to be read on a commute or over lunchtime sandwiches. Mehdi Hasan's The Debt Delusion (Random House, £1.79) provides, in 38 "pages" and 111 footnotes, a cogent, comprehensible and evidence-based explanation of exactly how and why the British Government's approach to the economy is so wrong. Toby Young's How to Set Up A Free School (Penguin, £1.99) is instructive on process and chilling on the dirty politics kicked up by his attempt to transcend his "self-obsessed celebrity journalist" past and do "something genuinely worthwhile and public-spirited". And Nariman Youssef's diary of the start of the Egyptian Revolution, Tahrir – 18 Days of Grace (Random House, £1.79), is evocative, proud and optimistic: an important first person account of the revolution-in-process.
If you're looking for reading inspiration, the free Fiction Uncovered app and website showcase writers of quality fiction, including Sarah Moss, Catherine Hall and Tim Pears, who haven't yet achieved megastardom. Both feature text and audio extracts, author interviews, essays, reviews and links to buy the ebooks.
And finally, if you're tired after all that reading and thinking, Matteo Pericoli's London Unfurled app (Picador, £4.99) will take you on a gentle journey along the north and south banks of the Thames, with a relaxing soundtrack of lapping water. You can read about landmarks, send email or Facebook postcards or just lie back and meditate, watching the line-drawn landscape drift by.
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