Sunday, 14 October 2012

Me and my paddy

I have finally succumbed and got an iPad. I will mostly use it for lectures, meetings and conferences: reading from screen rather than print out (a self-deceit of being green). I have been doing it for a long time noe with a laptop, but coming to a meeting with  laptop is almost like bringing a runic stone. Anyway, I am a happy owner of a paddy, and just as with my recent smartphone I am discovering things that I didn't know I wanted. I don't like calendar on the phone because it is too small and it takes me ages to type in a simple note, but I can imagine that next year will be the first since I was fifteen that I won't get a printed diary. I have a couple of months to discover whether paddy covers my needs.

One thing I did know I wanted was testing picturebook apps that one of my students has been studying for her thesis ever since the first iPad was launched. I remember her coming to supervision almost in tears saying: What shall I do? This changes everything. I can just as well throw away my thesis. To which the clever supervisor said: On the contrary, seize the day! Be the first to investigare picturebook apps in your thesis. Which she did.

The first picturebook app, that came free with the first iPad, was Dr Seuss' The Cat in the Hat. What my student and I agreed at once was that the app destroys the paratexts: cover, endpapers, title page - those element of the picturebook that sometimes are essential (if you want to know more, read my book How Picturebooks Work). What we tried to figure out was whether apps add something new or at least compensate fior what they have lost. The Cat in the Hat has been updated since then (one feature you can't do with a printed book, for better and for worse: you'll have to buy a new printed edition, while an app update writes over the previous version. No way you can compare covers). It is a good way to start a discussion of apps as compared with printed books. I put it on my syllabus before I got my paddy. But I will need more examples for this particular class.

I then bought Oliver Jeffers' The Heart and the Bottle, made by a celebrated picturebook author specifically as app. I suppose that you need to think slightly differently if you are doing an app from scratch, rather than transferring an existing picturebook into an app. If you are a clever picturebook creator you will think about how to make the most of the medium. I will need to play with it a bit more, but it is interesting, and it works. 

The third app I got was one of my favourite picturebooks, What Happened Then, by Tove Jansson. It's a wonderful book with cut-outs and lots of surprises. It is a interactive book, long before interactivity was associated with digital media. It is a sophisticated book. The app has lost it all and offers nothing instead. You tap and something pops up. Then it hides. You tap again, it pops up again. You shake, and leaves fall. Then they rise again. This app is a good argument for those against apps. It's merely a gimmick. Too bad. Too bad because parents will buy it for their kids who will never discover the real book. But that's what we have been saying about tevevision, movies and glossy Disney booklets of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame with a happy ending.


Janina Kastevik said...

Jag ser inte bilderboksapparna som en ersättning för den fysiska boken. Utan mer som en avancerad ljudbok. Vad gäller "Hur gick det sen" så har vi den både som app och fysisk bilderbok. Naturligtvis är bilderboken oändligt mycket mer sofistikerad. Men det rör sig om två olika medium och i vart fall mina barn har stor behållning av båda, men på olika sätt.

G. said...

You might want to have a look at Chris Ware's touch sensitive, which, while not a picture book, is the best exploration of graphical-novel-on-ipad that I've seen: