Frankenized

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I’ve spent such a lot of time looking at either special edition print books or enhanced ebooks that it was a real pleasure to attend Red Rattle’s recent launch for Frankenstein Galvanized, a specially ‘expanded’ print edition of Mary Shelley’s classic tale.

There are currently 32 different versions of Frankenstein on the App Store, the most famous of which being Profile Books’ visually stunning offering which adds a interactive element for the reader. I’ve always said that this is the best way for people to introduce themselves or others to the classics. And at £2.99 (special promo price at the moment) it’s certainly worth a dabble.

But before you do I’d urge you to investigate Frankenstein Galvanized, the work of new publishing house Red Rattle.

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It features the original unedited 1818 Shelley text along with over half a dozen accompanying essays as well as notes and commentary. Editor’s Claire Bazin’s engaging introduction is worth the money alone.

What I like about it so much is that it is the opposite of so many other modern-day Frankenstein editions. This is a real labour of love and the Red Rattle team should be applauded for taking time to construct and bring to life their edition. It’s a kind of Cliff Notes meets Wikipedia meets Shelley herself. The original text is baffling to grasp at first but you soon find yourself swayed along by Shelley’s prose. And the essays at the back are pitched perfectly – you don’t need to be a classics student to enjoy them.

If you want to dig deeper into the Frankenstein/Shelley story rather than skim the top with an app/digital version then stick this on your Christmas list.

Red Rattle have similar enhancements of classics in the pipeline including Treasure Island, The Woman in White and The Moonstone.

Fifty Grades of Sandpaper

This is quite brilliant.

In 1959, artists Asger Jorn and Guy Debord collaborated on the publication of a book, Memoires, on psychogeography and detournement. No, me neither.

What made this book extra special was that Jorn and Debord eschewed normal printing methods and decided to coat their book in heavy-grade sandpaper. The idea was that it would destroy anything it sat next to or on top of. Or indeed, the person’s hands who was holding it. Genius.

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Sadly, I can’t find any copies of this book anywhere (eBay and Abebooks) which is actually probably a good thing…

For more info, and to find out what psychogeography and detournement actually is, then head over to the dedicated Wikipedia page.

Must have GOSH!

If you ever find yourself in Soho, London then make sure you visit GOSH!, a cracking bookshop devoted to all things comic.

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It’s much much more than just a haven for geeks though. It has a wonderful array of graphic novels and beautifully illustrated books.

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And unusual literary magazines as well.

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Needless to say, I was very tempted by this book…Image

GOSH! can be found at 1 Berwick Street, W1F 0DR, London.

Lovin’ It (3D)

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I picked up this edition of HP Lovecraft’s short stories after finishing Ned Beauman’s brilliant ‘The Teleportation Accident’ recently.

Beauman uses Lovecraft, a cult horror writer who died in 1937, as the inspiration for one of his plot strands in his novel.

Reading about Lovecraft reminded me of this article in the New Yorker about the film director Guillermo del Toro who tries, and ultimately fails, to bring one of Lovecraft’s stories, ‘At the Mountain of Madness’ to the big screen.

When I read the article I vowed to pick up a copy of Lovecraft’s short stories. But as you do, I completely forgot until Ned Beauman kindly reminded me of my earlier promise.

And so I was delighted to see this unusual 3D edition of Lovecraft’s short stories in my local Waterstones. Published by Vintage, the book comes complete with a pair of 3D glasses. It’s a gimmick, yes, but it’s something different.

The most important job of a book’s front jacket is to inspire the customer to pick it up. This does just that and even tempts the reader into ‘trying out’ the cover with the glasses.

Vintage have done 3D covers for other books. Being such a Conan Doyle fan, I’m going to have to look out for ‘The Lost World’ next time I’m in a bookshop.

 

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How on earth do you pronounce ‘Cthulhu’?

The best 20 digital publishing apps: 20-16

When I first saw the Sunday Times’ best ‘book apps’ feature last month I immediately thought that I could do better. I even wrote a post about it decrying the paper’s inability to look beyond the most obvious of apps.

My original intention was to do an alternative top ten but while researching nominations I soon realised that to do the sector justice I’d have to increase it to 20. I also found myself changing the parameters of what I could include and even what being a ‘book app’ meant.

In order not to bankrupt myself (I downloaded and tested over 50 apps) I limited my scope to non-children iOS apps. I’ve also dropped the ‘book app’ tag preferring instead to use ‘digital publishing app’ so as to not avoid including apps which showcase graphic novels, short stories, long-form journalism and other literary forms.

What I can say is that this 20, of which the first five appear below, are all successful examples of what reading a book/story on an iOS device can and should be like. Simple, original, intuitive and, in some cases, educational.

Part 1 (20-16)

20.
Ultimate Running Races (link)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: £1.99
Platforms: iPhone/iPad

Ultimate Running Races is a great example of a simple, stripped down digital app. It is a near exact copy of the print version which means that for just £1.99 you’re getting the same content, in digitised form, as something that retails at £20 in any bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Bargain.

It’s not just the saving though that has earned this app a spot on my list, or the fact that I’m a keen runner. The app’s search and filter function combined with the intuitive user interface on iOS devices makes it a breeze to browse through the 500 global races – a must-have for any runner.

19.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Interactive eBook (link)
Publisher: Quirk Books
Agency: Padworx Digital Media Inc.
Price: £5.99
Platforms: iPhone/iPad

Coming from an editorial background with experience in translation I’ve always been interested by the idea of having two texts, original and new, sit side-by-side – Penguin Parallels style. I’ve experimented in the past on early versions of the Kindle without success. This app though shows that there is a way to make it work, especially on the iPhone/iPad.

Quirk Books have made a name for themselves with the publication, via their Quirk Classics imprint, of their mashed-up classics – versions of classics put through the blender with other popular literary genres (zombies, robots, monsters etc.) And the digitised version of their bestselling ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is similarly as wacky as the print version.

This enhanced version comes complete with hundreds of illustrations, a music score and several gory animations which all add to the surreal atmosphere. For £5.99 you get the Quirk Classic as well as the original Jane Austen novel and by reading in portrait mode on either the iPhone or iPad you can read the two stories side-by-side. It’s a fascinating way of comparing the two and seeing how the author of the mashed up version, Seth Grahame-Smith, made his changes and diverted from Austen’s original.

18.
Five Stop Story (link)
Publisher: Five Stop Stories
Price: Free/£1.99 for annual subscription
Platforms: iPhone/iPad

Five Stop Stories describe themselves as ‘an innovative electronic publisher’ and I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them that title. Their website/app is dedicated to providing readers with stories or no more than 3,000 words long that can be read in an average of five London Underground stops – hence the snappy title.

It’s a brilliant concept and one which is made even better by the way they source and rate their material; through a monthly short story competition. Hopeful writers pay to enter their efforts and the best of which make it to the app. Readers can then vote for their favourites with the most popular story each month earning its reader £50 and a chance of finishing top of the Five Stop Story author league.

The app is free and comes with three short stories. An annual subscription can be bought for just £1.99.

17.
Commando (link)
Publisher: D C Thomson & Co
Price: Free/£4.99 for monthly subscription (eight comics)
Platforms: iPhone/iPad

There are much more immersive comic book/graphic novel apps out there (which will feature later on in this list) but this gets my vote for, like Ultimate Running Races, doing what it does simply and well.

Commando has been in print for over 50 years and made the transition to digital last year. The app version is very well-built and offers the classics for download along with new versions each month. You can download four free comics of your choice and then pay £4.99 for an eight-comic monthly subscription.

16.
A Visit From The Goon Squad
(link)
Publisher: Constable and Robinson
Price: £5.99
Platforms: iPhone/iPad

Jennifer Egan’s ‘A Visit From The Goon Squad’ has won much won praise and two significant literary prizes; the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

This £5.99 app lives up to the print version with a number of interesting devices used to amplify the text; an unusual and unorthodox narrative composed of linked short stories. The app stays true to Egan’s vision by inviting the reader to make their way though the story in its natural form before allowing them to turn author and switch the chapters around and read them in whatever order they please.

Also included is an award-winning audiobook version and liner notes from Egan herself. There is also a free version which includes two chapters in audiobook form.

Out Of This World

I stumbled across the following video earlier this week and thought it deserved more than a simple retweet (@sveinc if you don’t already follow me.)

Put simply it’s an excellent visual example of the power of the book; the joy of turning a page, discovering new information and realising that reading a book is a much more interactive experience than you might at first think.

It’s also a way of showing how businesses can communicate with their consumers in an innovative and fun way – in this case how telecommunications giant Samsung combined old and new to produce something with breathtaking originality.

Out of the box – book from Vitamins on Vimeo.

Isn’t it great? And I doff my cap to London-based design and invention studio Vitamins Design for coming up with the concept.

Run by Adrian Westaway, Clara Gaggero and Duncan Fitzsimons, Vitamins Design is a quite astounding oasis of creativity. Browse their website and you’ll soon be inspired by their exciting products and passion for what they do.

What I love most about the ‘Out of Box’ idea is that it dares to take everything that Apple has taught us about mobile phone packaging (minimalist, product-led) and thrown it out of the window. ‘Out of the Box’ injects a real sense of humour and interactivity with the consumer. And i’m just glad that the medium that Vitamins Design thought would best convey this was a book!

Wuthering Apps

I picked up the Sunday Times today because I wanted to read their ‘App List’ supplement. Last week, they profiled 250 business, productivity and work apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices and this time around it was leisure and culture’s turn and I was intrigued to see what they chose as their eight top book apps.

Because of Rupert’s paywall obsession you won’t be able to access the list online without a subscription. And so here, for your eyes only, are the Sunday Times’ Eight…

1) The Waste Land (Touch Press/Faber)
Platform: iPad
Price: £9.99
I’ve reviewed this one before and so was delighted to see it make the list. Touch Press are THE literary app developers at the moment and am keen to see what they come out with next.

2) British Library: Treasures (British Library)
Platforms: iPhone, Android, iPad
Price £1.49
One of a few BL apps designed to accompany their exhibitions. A great and wonderfully produced idea but I’ve got one major problem with this particular choice. It’s not a book. Not even slightly.

3) iF Poems for the IPhone (Clickworks)
Platform: iPhone, iPad
Price: £1.69
According to the Sunday Times, this app outsold Angry Birds on its launch. It’s easy to see why as this is an enthusiastic, lively and interactive packaging of a tough literary nut – poetry. I think the title should reflect its availability on other platforms though.

4) Poetry Foundation (The Poetry Foundation)
Platform: iPhone, Android
Price: Free
Another poetry app! An American offering with an enormous database of verse. Again, should this qualify as a book? It’s free though and available on a non-iOS platform so I’m not going to argue.

5) Iquran Pro (Guided Ways Technologies Ltd)
Platform: iPhone, Android
Price: £4.99
A shining example of how something as cherished and historic as the Quaran can be transformed into a digital, mobile document. A bit steep for £4.99 though as there are cheaper alternatives on the market.

6) Our Daily Bread (RBC Ministries)
Platform: iPhone, Android
Price: £0.69
The Bible equivalent of Iquran pro although it seems to be restricted by only being able to view passages if connected to Wi-Fi.

7) Dickens: Dark London (Brothers and Sisters Creative)
Platform: iPhone, iPad
Price: Free
There are a slew of Dickens apps on the market and it is no surprise the ST have picked this one. It’s an atmospheric offering which invites the reader on a trip around Dickens’ London via the medium of an interactive graphic novel. I found it less intuitive to use than it could have been and the audio on my downloaded version failed to work. And while the app states that episodes can be downloaded for free, the ST says that they cost £1.49 each.

8) IDW Comics (IDW Publishing)
Platform: iPhone
Price: Free
I’ve yet to properly delve into the world of digital comics although if this app is anything to go by, I’ll be doing so soon. Having downloaded this app in order to give it a quick road test it’s easy to see that of all the publishers creating apps, the graphic novelists are light years ahead.

This particular app shows how reading a comic on an iPad is a transformative experience. Multi-touch gestures, comic panels which lead the reader on a non-linear journey and the all round choice cements this a stunning example of a ‘book app’.

And it works commercially as well with the reader being able to download free comics before paying £1.49 – £2.49 for the latest digital editions. And wonderfully, there’s an option to buy print versions of the comics. See, print isn’t dead!

My one complaint is that ST profile states that the app is only available on the iPhone. This is false. And I can’t imagine IDW Publishing being too happy with this as you can also get the app for the iPad, the only device which gives justice to the visual richness of the comics.

And so, in conclusion, while there were a few pleasant surprises in the list (IDW Comics and The Waste Land) I wasn’t too impressed by the ST’s choices. No On the Road or Cyclepedia for example. Shocking. That’s why next week I’ll be putting together my own top ten list of book apps. I’m sure the Sunday Times will be shaking in their boots!

Come back next week when hopefully I’ll have put together something a little bit more unusual…

The Scarlet Murakami

Well, less than one week on and my Amazon boycott is still holding out. In fact, I bought my first book of the year and it’s a shining example as to how the great online retailer can’t provide their customers with everything they might want.

I give you, the red-edged special edition version of Haruki Murakami’s IQ84…

This version (which incorporates volumes 1 & 2) is EXCLUSIVE to Foyles meaning that even if I did want to get it from Amazon my search would have proved fruitless. And with only 1,500 printed they truly are a ‘special edition’.

It’s fantastic isn’t it? Alright, it may not be as special as this version, but still. It’s a much bolder, warmer and intriguing book than the orginal version.

It cost £20 which is at the higher end for a harback but I wasn’t in the least bit reticent about buying it. I just have to hope that the third volume, also red-edged, doesn’t sell out by the time I finish volumes 1 & 2!

Once I’ve figured out how to insert tables into a blog then I hope to include a running total of my book spend compared to what it would have been with shopping at Amazon.

With thanks to http://distantheartbeats.tumblr.com

About a (Amazon) Boy(cott)

I’ve long been a fan of Amazon. Ever since they started business in 1995 I’ve used them to buy books, music and various kitchen gadgets. I also have, and love, my Kindle.

But the news that they encouraged people, prior to Christmas, to go into bricks-and-mortar bookshops and use their branded Price Checker app to compare prices in exchange for a discount voucher shocked me. I was appalled. And I wasn’t the only one.

I’ve nothing against price comparison apps but, in my opinion, luring people to use shops’ products, especially ones belonging to independents, for their own gain is a disgusting example of corporate greed. Stock is the lifeblood and livelihood of bookshops and such a direct abuse of power is horrendous.

Amazon have a history of rubbing people up the wrong way though and having worked for a small publisher I know only too well the ways in which they squeeze every penny from their ‘customers’.

And so, inspired by Amazon’s seasonal bad will and a general desire to experiment with my book buying/reading habits I’ve decided to boycott Amazon for 2012. They won’t be getting a penny of my money this year.

Instead, I’m going to use my local library and swap books with internet strangers as well as buy from a variety of my local and favourite bookshops including The Big Green Bookshop, Clerkenwell Tales, Belgravia Books and the Waterstone’s in Walthamstow.

I plan to keep to keep a log of what I buy/read from where and for how much. All results will be posted on this blog. Evidently, not shopping with Amazon will cost more but I hope to prove that you can have a much more interesting book buying/reading experience by exploring other, more exciting channels.

A Spineless Carol

Earlier this summer, Mrs PAP and I visited the V&A where we saw a collection of stunning prints hanging on the gift shop wall. It was my first introduction to Spineless Classics.

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At first glance, the prints resemble simple black and white silhouettes of famous literary characters or motifs. However, upon closer inspection, you realise that each image has been constructed not with brushstrokes but words; the entire collection of words from a classic literary work.

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Their prints include versions of ‘A Christmas Carol‘, ‘Black Beauty‘ and ‘Treasure Island‘ but they’ve also dipped their toes in non-fiction with ‘The Origin of Species’ and ‘The Wealth of Nations’.

They are truly stunning and so imagine my surprise on Christmas morning when one of the presents I unwrapped was Spineless Classic’s take on ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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It looks fantastic. And it’ll look even better once it’s in a frame.

And in fact, it’s actually inspired me to try my hand at doing something similar. Ever since I read ‘On The Road’ by Jack Kerouac I’ve been fascinated by the Beat generation. Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl‘ is a particular favourite and I’ve always wanted to try and get a copy to hang on a wall at Castle PAP.

Having seen what Spineless Classics do I’ve decided that one of my resolutions for 2012 is to attempt a version for Howl. My design skills are limited but I’m confident I could knock one up. Whether it’ll turn out as impressive as a Spineless Classic remains to be seen…

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