by Colleen White
Technology and literature can make strange bedfellows. In our world of limited leisure time, the rise of one can feel like it comes at the expense of the other.
But a recent crop of apps and tech is looking not to take away from literature, but rather enhance the reading experience. As gamification inserts itself into more aspects of our life, a few intrepid groups are finding ways to merge literature and technology in creative (and super cool) ways.
1. Poetry Genius/Lit Genius
Remember the first time you looked up song lyrics on Google and had that “holy crap, that’s what they’re singing about” moment? Well, the brilliant minds behind Rap Genius have taken that model to the page. Poetry Genius lets you explore tricky lines and hidden meanings through Wikipedia-style community entries. Cooler still, many poems feature pretty great dramatic readings. And if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, they’re building out the same feature for literature and classic novels. So. Much. Content.
2. Shakespeare Pro
Fans of the bard, rejoice! While there are tons (and tons and tons) of apps dedicated to the work of Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Pro app is one of the most comprehensive. With full text of all works (and “doubtful works”), including synopsis and reviews, Shakespeare Pro will give you all the info you could possibly need.
The website also features this gem of a review, brilliant in its brevity:
Available: iOS, Android
3. Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Hear me out; while this is the second Shakespeare-centric app on the list, I promise you it’s worth its own mention. Rather than trying to tackle the entire massive collection of works, this app has chosen to do one thing really well. It gives historical and cultural background, full text, and notes that you’d expect from a Shakespeare app, but the best part is the collection of videos of the sonnets read by Shakespearian actors, experts, and researchers.
4. The Waste Land
T.S. Eliot’s works are the focus of this immersive app. With annotations, a filmed performance, and celebrity readings (including Viggo Mortensen and Alec Guinness…which is weird and awesome), it’s clear a lot of time and money went into developing The Waste Land. For serious poetry fans, the app offers the opportunity to engage with Eliot and poke around the language and style of the enigmatic poet.
5. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
This app from Penguin Books shows how one of the newest trends in literature – amplified editions – can be done really well. Along with the text, the app offers a huge collection of materials about the life and times of Kerouac, tributes to On the Road from the artists it influenced, and an incredible interactive map of the routes taken on the road trips. Best of all, with the option to hide annotations as you read, the app can be as interactive or unobtrusive as you choose.
Less literature than literary tourism app, JoyceWays is an immersive look at Dublin through the text of Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses. Laden with facts, readings, maps, photos, and videos, JoyceWays looks to serve as your guide through Dublin as it was in 1904. While excellent no matter the location, this app is best enjoyed in the streets of Dublin, where you can do a bit of field research on the 15 pubs Joyce mentions and create your own “Authenticity Ratio”.
Honorable Mention – JoyceStick
It’s still in development and so can’t be included in this list, but the team that designed JoyceWays is working on a new “immersive Virtual Reality experience”, and it looks really freaking cool. I’ll keep you posted on when this will launch, but in the meantime, be sure to check out the website.