The App’s The Thing

Everybody knows that I’m a software developer by trade.  Over the years we’ve periodically discussed how Shakespeare can crossover with technology to produce new and exciting ways of teaching, learning, and performing.  They’re actually coming so fast and furious at me now that I can’t even keep up – I had to turn down an offer to be part of a test group for a new app because I only have Android devices, and everybody insists on developing for iPad first :(.

But!  Let’s talk about this Fast Company story on a new $9.99 iPad version of The Tempest.  It looks to have lots of things I’ve always wanted:
  • combine the text with the audio book so you can read or listen at will, your choice
  • add comments and notes that will be shared with other people reading the book so that you can create a sort of virtual book club for discussion 
  • switch over to video to actually see performances of key scenes 

Ten bucks for what will be be seen as a “fancy multimedia book” is no doubt pretty high and I don’t expect it to take over the world.  Ten bucks for a single play?  My brain immediately does math for how much it’ll cost me to go through all the plays I’d like to read this way.

Whether you read the story or not, what would you like to see in the ideal “Shakespeare on Mobile” (tablet or phone?) app?  Is it all about the text, or the video?  Is it about the source material, or the centuries of commentary and footnotes?  Or would it be about collaborating and creating new things?  Would you rather have fewer plays in the app and have the app do more things, or is the desire for a “Complete Works” the stronger force at work here?
For years I’ve wanted a way to connect every kid in the world reading Hamlet with every Shakespeare Geek in the world who wants to talk about Hamlet, and I think we’re finally getting closer.  My idea, since before the Kindle and the iPad (when I had a “Rocket eBook Reader”) was for the reader to post a question on a page and say “Wait!  Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius here?”  That, so far, has always been easy.  The trick is that there would be an army of people out there who have signed up to listen for these questions, who get a little notification blip on their device that says, “There’s a new question to answer.”  So you go and you answer it, right there in the text.
I think we’re getting closer.

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