Books and Publishing in the Digital Age
As publishers begin to utilize digital platforms, how will literary classics be translated across digital media? One possibility is that they will resemble something similar to the interactive versions of the Macbeth: Explore Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet: Explore Shakespeare iPad apps. Recently released by Cambridge University Press, the Explore Shakespeare apps feature the text of the plays along with audio performances, embedded glossaries, photos from various productions, notes on the text, summaries, and academic articles. Visual timelines and character word clouds are also included in the apps.
The features and extras of the apps are meant to enhance a reader’s understanding of the text as well as provide a detailed account of the production of the play. Audio, photos, and character timelines provide sound and visuals for those who read along with the classic texts.
The Explore Shakespeare apps provide students and scholars with a one-stop resource for in-depth analyses and an interactive experience that is truly unique to the digital medium. Versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night were released earlier this year. As more publishers evaluate the success of these apps, could interactive features of more texts be close behind?
As pointed out in PwC’s “Turning the Page: The Future of eBooks,” the iPad along with other tablets and e-readers have helped the publishing industry generate revenue outside of hardback and paperback book sales. Consumers have increasingly adopted the use of mobile devices as tools for reading books and magazines. Digital platforms allow the publishers to experiment with the visuals of apps and ebooks that may in the future cease to resemble the traditional layout of a physical book.
A digital format means that storytelling has a broader canvas on which to create a more complete understanding of a narrative. The combination of literature and technology can push past the boundaries of a physical text and provide the reader with an in depth look at the story as well as the individual characters.
The future of multimedia storytelling can move beyond the original text and incorporate digital tools to allow for a more dynamic reading experience. In Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, Janet H. Murray envisions an interactive experience capable of inserting a reader into the story. The reader might have the opportunity to become a major or minor character within the story and interact with the other characters.
While the Explore Shakespeare apps might not insert a reader directly into the play, they certainly offer the reader a chance to be in the audience of a performance. The apps are an interesting use of digital media and will likely inspire other versions of equal or greater innovation in storytelling.