The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet for iPad
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The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is a ground breaking visual novel told through text and hundreds of deeply detailed original drawings. Unavailable in digital form until now.
When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal-if you consider mapping dinner table conversations normal-is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family home just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum's hallowed halls in Washington D.C. The story is accompanied by hundreds of drawings that provide readers with a glimpse of T.S.'s extraordinary mind.
Enter more deeply into the richly imagined world of T.S. Spivet with this amplified edition. T.S.'s personal journals come to life, offering the reader multiple pathways into his story. Readers can unlock a secret journal if they upload their own drawing. A select group of drawings from readers will be posted within the app for other readers to find. With opportunities for interaction on every page, navigating through the text becomes a journey much like T.S.'s own.
The app features includes:
- Birds eye view navigation: Users can navigate through the chapters in a visual way by using the slider on the main menu
- Selected Marginalia can be manipulated and shared through Facebook and email
- A secret notebook that unlocks to reveal hidden content when you upload your own drawing
- Ability to make color coded annotations through-out
- Original video clips
How to Make an e-Book that Could Not Be Made
“It is my belief that e-readers should take many of the lessons of narrative, design, and function from the printed book, yet at the same time embrace the new opportunities afforded by presenting text on a boundless screen.”
There is no doubt that the The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was a challenging book to adapt for e-readers, as its print version
When The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet first came out, the relatively nascent state of e-book technology, essentially limited to monochromatic e-readers, made it impossible to adapt the book electronically.
So, forging ahead into this rich but unchartered territory, our design philosophy for adapting Spivet to the iPad became centered around these three guiding questions:
- What does a tablet touch-screen do well and how can we harness these strengths?
- What are the most effective features of a printed book and how can we port these features over to an electronic version?
- How can we maintain the bounded, curated feel of the original text given the possibilities of an infinite screen space and infinite potential for add-on media (such as hyperlinks, videos, blogs, Twitter feeds, slideshows, etc)?
The first guiding question led us to reconsider the printed page as our default delivery system. Several writers and designers like Craig Mod have urged us to reconsider what constitutes "the page" on a screen, and instead look to a "sliding vertical plane," like what has intuitively evolved in web pages since the inception of the Internet. The sliding vertical plane embraces the opportunities afforded by an infinite screen, but keeps the chunks of text still bounded enough to allow for incremental narrative processing. Over time, I have found that scrolling up and down using a touch-screen is a real intuitive joy that is as smooth if not smoother than turning a page.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was how to effectively incorporate the wide format of the book with its surrounding marginalia. A life-size double page spread of the print book with two columns of text and two columns of marginalia would be over fifteen inches wide, which was impossible for an iPad screen. I didn't like the idea of simple size-reduction either; I wanted to preserve ample white space around the text, not just for breathing room, but for the reader to feel when there was an absence of marginalia. Since we were translating the text into a series of chapter-long vertical columns, we decided to flank this central column with marginalia that spilled just off the screen and that could be consequently pulled into view by the reader. Thus, the reader is required to literally interact with the text, to unveil what is obscured or hidden in order to uncover the full narrative.
Our second guiding principal led me to scrutinize what I believe to be a major feature missing from most current e-booksthe ability to have a clear, bird's eye view of the text. When you're reading a print book, you know exactly how far you are into itnot just with a glance but with the feel of the book in your lap. There is a physical geography to your progress through the narrative. This is very important for spatial thinkers like myself; when I'm trying to recall the location of a certain line, I will literally leaf through the book's pages until I reach what feels like the right position of that particular place (about 1/3 of the way through) and then will look to the geography of the page spread (upper left) to help me find the line or scene's location. This physical geography is completely lost in e-books, which essentially collapse an entire book into nothing except a vague and visually unappealing "progress bar."
We tried to address this problem by designing a simple-but-powerful navigation home page, where chapters are listed horizontally across the bottom. When a reader selects one of these chapters, a small scrollable preview of the chapter is shown on the right of the screen, with the vertical column of main text displayed with its accompanying satellites of marginal images and notes. The reader can scroll up and down, see how far they are through the chapter and then enter the text this way. We also built in a bookmarking feature where a reader can drop and label color-coded "pins" at any point in the text. These pins can be seen in a number of ways: through the main text view, through bird's eye view on the home page, or in list form on the bookmark's menu.
The third guiding principal was an important mantra when the temptation arose to throw in a lot of extras simply because we could. I was clear that this book should not link to the Internet: while it might seem like a good idea to link a place mentioned in the text to a slideshow or Wikipedia page, this kind of light linkability quickly erodes a novel's self-contained literary architecture. I wanted to leave ample room for the reader's imagination to perform its elusive magic, and throwing lifelines back to the haphazard amoeba of the Internet is a great way to scuttle the whole art form. With that said, I think there is room to add features not available in a printed book that exist inside the still self-contained world of an e-book. For instance, we decided to include a "making of" video in which I discuss the design process with programmer/designer Jeff Rabb. This strikes me as akin to the director's commentaries that you see on DVDs: an additional (albeit geeky) option that can be explored by those who want to look under the hood and get a peak into the mechanics of the creation process.
We also built in two options for sharing and interaction, areas where the Web 2.0 clearly excels. Again, as seen through the ongoing narcissistic mundanity of most Twitter feeds, this is a slippery slope, particularly vis-á-vis the fragile walls of a novel. But when done carefully, sharing options within an e-book can function in the same way books have always functioned: thriving on personal recommendations and word-of-mouth. There is thus an option inside the Spivet e-book to share, via email or Facebook, a select number of maps and imagesessentially a quick, elegant way for a reader to say "Hey, I'm digging this moment in this book and maybe you will too."
This novel also seems to encourage participation in mapping one's own world. Already, there have been various homegrown group mapping exercises and competitions inspired by Spivet. So we've built in a function for readers to submit their own maps and diagrams into a notebook that can be seen by other readers: essentially an online mapping community, linked by the common pursuit of displaying the world in T.S.'s spirit. Submitting your own creation unlocks extra "secret" content, another feature that e-books offer which print books do not.
What will be interesting to see in the future is how much these e-books will begin to resemble semi-text-based, socially-networked DVDs. There seems to be a real danger here. For Spivet, we built in opening animated titles, almost like a feature film, and yet very quickly you find yourself in Chapter 1, confronted with text, just like any other book. Will the flash and dazzle offered by e-books erode the quiet, private, and long-form act of reading? I suspect we will be able to find a happy medium that embraces this new form but also upholds the tenets of good literature. Perhaps now more than ever this new crop of e-books will demand a discerning and curatorial eye on the part of both the writer and the editor. The temptations offered by these new technologies are great, but so too, it seems to me, are the rewards.
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