The Future of Books

Thank you to my WA colleague Wendy for bringing this wonderful iPad app to my attention:

This app is a digital book based on an Academy Award-winning short film entitled The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. It’s a fabulous film that tells a mesmerizing story about the power of books—how we can give new life to old books by reading them, and they can, in turn, give life to us; how they can change our lives and help us write our own life story. The film comes bundled with the app, which is currently $4.99 (and a true bargain). The reader can interact with every page of the digital book. You can help Morris get lost in a book, spell with alphabet cereal, make books talk, and so many other cool events drawn from the film. As you read, a narrator reads the story to you, the text of which runs along the bottom of each page. My son and I sat down together and read it. He rarely comments on things we read, but he kept saying “Great!” as we were reading. Even though Dylan is verbal, he rarely talks (and when he does, it is often echolalia rather than a direct response), and it is unusual for him to make any remarks at all when he’s engaged in activity like using an iPad app, but he simply loved this one. It didn’t take him long before he was touching everything on the screen to see what it would do.

Two other digital books have recently been released which I haven’t had a chance to purchase yet: T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:

And the complete collection of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets, which includes Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, and David Tennant (among others) interpreting the sonnets:

(“Sonnet 29” is my favorite poem, by the way.)

In addition to dramatic readings, both apps include the complete text for a new multimedia reading experience, as well as also includes commentary and notes to help readers understand the text and make connections. For the kind of experience you get with these apps, the prices really can’t be beat, especially if you consider that a good paperback copy of either The Waste Land or Shakespeare’s Sonnets, complete with annotations (never mind the media) would probably run at least $13.99.

No one asked me to endorse these apps, but I’m so excited about the rich reading experiences they offer. Would you want to read every book this way? Perhaps not, but for particularly thorny texts like The Waste Land or the Sonnets, it makes a great deal of sense to include all these tools for comprehension and extension that will help readers from a variety of backgrounds—learning difficulties, English language learners, disabled as well as gifted and/or avid readers. I can see the power a book like any one of these three would have. I don’t know how you feel, but the possibility of teaching these books, using these materials, is exciting. I keep thinking of Miranda (and not in the usual ironic kind of way): “O brave new world that has such books in in it.”

4 thoughts on “The Future of Books”

  1. As a graduate student in secondary education, I love these digital books and I'm so excited about the possibilities the content offers. One question I have is perhaps overly optimistic, but I'll ask anyway; do you think it's possible for (advanced) (high school) students to develop their own versions of these books? How complex is the technology to create such an app? Wouldn't it be great if students were able to not just use digital books, but create them?

    1. Hi Flex. Great question! Yes, students can create these books, and it probably merits a post in itself, but essentially, they can 1) build an app (I just learned about a new tool to make this easier), 2) use iBooks Author to create an iBook, and 3) use Google Docs and Calibre to build ebooks. I think having students create books is a fantastic idea. I will follow up with a lengthier, more helpful blog post soon.

  2. This is my first time reading your blog and I really enjoyed your post about digital books. In my training to become a teacher, I've been thinking a lot about how digital books will play a role in my classroom. I love this idea that digital books can be interactive, especially with regard to Shakespeare. I think providing students with an interactive app can transform the way they read and understand Shakespeare. The possibility of using a tool like this in my classroom is really exciting! Again, thank you for the insight into digital books–it will surely help me in my classroom!

    1. Katie, the Shakespeare Sonnets app is utterly amazing. I am already planning to use it in my classes. It's well worth the $13.95 if you have an iPad. I didn't even touch on the interactive iBooks. Textbooks for $15 that 1) update automatically, and 2) have interactive features like videos and other media, as well as self assessments and study aids. It's a no-brainer!

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