Monday, February 29, 2016

Guest blogger - The Evolution of the E-Book App – A Review of Iain Pear’s Arcadia

Today's blog is written by my coworker Paula Hollohan.  She's the Doucette Library's technology-in-the-classroom guru. She writes the Doucette Ed Tech blog which is a terrific resource reviewing educational apps, technological devices, and issues (ie. Maker movement) that are relevant and current for classroom teaching.
I expect more from e-book apps.  I keep waiting for the perfect e-book app to be released, you know the one that you look at, read, say “wow, now that’s a great book AND great technology.”   Maybe I’m wrong in my expectations but surely, I can’t be the only one on the hunt.  Perhaps I am expecting an author to have equal stake in the writing and the technical presentation of their work.

Iain Pears has always been an innovative author, telling stories backwards or the same story from various points of view but, in an interview with the Guardian, he explains that, in an effort to make things easier for the reader, he chose to develop an app for Arcadia. 

The middle panel is the screen appearance on the ipad that shows you where you are and the flow of the story in general.

Readers may choose from various streams of storytelling on the main map page at the beginning of the app. There are 10 storytellers and you may follow one stream or read the story from various viewpoints or read to a point and return to the intersection of stories and catch up with other storytellers. 

It’s a great deal of work for a story that didn’t immediately capture my attention.  Was I interested in reading another storyteller’s episode of the story? Not so much.  Aside from the initial subway-inspired mapping of the story, the rest is black print on white background, no graphics, no pictures, no interaction.   Much like other e-books, after the decision is made about which part of the story to read, the app continues in a very conventional e-book, or even book format.

And here it is – the one thing in an e-book app that will certainly garner a negative review, the reader must pay, while deep into the story, $5.49 Cdn to continue.  What?  In that most awful of inventions, this e-book has subscribed to the “in-app purchase” debacle.  The initial download of the app for iPhone or iPad (not Android) is free.

Even with what seems, for me, an unsatisfactory outcome, Arcadia did garner many good reviews and comments on its innovation.  These are reviewers who have more patience than I do and a deeper reading commitment.  The target audience is adult and it may be attractive to an advanced high school reader. A hard copy of the book is also available.

And so, my research continues, for an e-book app that could be used in a high school classroom, which has content that is riveting, graphics that hook the reader in and some interaction that keeps the reader onboard.  Pears admits that this e-book took four and half years of development, three publishers, two designers, and four sets of coders.  Perhaps my expectations are too high.

Tammy's two-bits:  I, too, just couldn't dig this e-book.  I think I thought it was going to be something other than it was.  Maybe, more like an interactive plot-your-own-story.  Which it wasn't at all. I agree with Paula that I found the format of choosing which character to read very disruptive.  I kept wondering what I was missing by following through with one character and then jumping back up and over interrupting my flow. In the end I didn't find the story compelling enough to want to bother -- so didn't .  Guess that's two thumbs down for Arcadia.  Anyone else read this one?


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