I’ve never been much of a one for using tie-in apps: I had a couple of apps to get free classics when I was younger, but that was pretty much it. Obviously, this is because there is an emphasis upon apps that go with children’s books. This is so they can have access to more books in a series, play games that immerse them in the story, or have a bedtime story read to them by parent who may be travelling or live elsewhere. The apps can also use the characters to teach children how to read or do maths, among other things.
For example, these are two apps that tie in with classic modern children’s stories:
However, at the moment I am more interested in apps that tie in with adult fiction. (Apps that go with adult nonfiction is a discussion for another time). It was interesting how difficult it was to find an appropriate app for me to review – obviously I needed something that was free (hey, I’m a student), but also was more than a couple of chapters of the story.
I came across the app ‘He liked thick word soup’. This takes sentences from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, which the user must re-construct using other sentences from the novel. The app claims that this helps the user slow down when reading ‘Ulysses’ so to fully comprehend the meaning of each individual word. I think that the concept behind this is a great idea – there are so many different technologies that help the user read faster, that this was a refreshing change.
The game itself was a bit fiddly, but it did indeed cause me to slow down and read. However, I don’t think it was necessarily intrinsic to the experience of reading ‘Ulysses’. An interesting side-note that a Joyce enthusiast may enjoy, but definitely not something that the average reader would seek out. (Though, to be fair, the average reader doesn’t look to ‘Ulysses’ for a quick beach read). It would be extremely interesting to see whether this sort of app could be used in relation to more accessible literature, or whether the publishing world will foray into literary games for adults.
I think that the best way to ensure the games’ popularity would be, like the children’s ones, to have each level unlock another chapter or related short story. This would be particularly interesting when done with a popular series of books as they are currently being released. However, as has been seen with Pottermore, bonus content is not enough to create a website or app that is absolutely essential to the reading experience. This is perhaps because the main series is no longer being released, or because the games themselves on Pottermore are too repetitive and boring to play for the bonus content alone (sorry, J.K.).
For the world of adult literary apps, I think it needs to be the best of many popular adult games. Addictive like candy crush and interactive like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (hey, don’t judge, you can also play with your friends, people like that). The Sophie Kinsella ‘Shopaholic’ books are just begging to be turned into an app. (Well. For some.) Or maybe the ‘Agatha Raisin’ series by M.C. Beaton. You could solve mysteries, but in a way that isn’t just randomly clicking on a screen until you find the murder weapon. There could be in-app purchases so the publishers make some money. C’mon guys.
In conclusion? Ditch the ‘Ulysses’. Give us the shopaholics and the cutesy murder, and give it to us NOW.