App-ortunity Knocks.

Wed 07 Oct 2009 by Geo_Parkin

Vernon Bright and the Magnetic Banana, App cover image

Most of us by now will be at least dimly aware of something called the App Store that resides within the burgeoning retail section of iTunes. From here you can buy, or in many cases download for free, a bewildering range of applications designed for the iPhone or iPod Touch platform. From practical concepts such as subway maps or an iStethoscope, all the way down to virtual pints of lager and fart simulators. 

In amongst this riot of creativity is a growing list of books that have been digitised and re-designed to work in this new format. Rather excitingly, these include four Vernon Bright titles I worked on with the Two Steves, Barlow and Skidmore, a few years ago. The new treatment has given the books a whole new lease of life with touch-screen page-turning, electronic bookmarks and an interactive quiz at the end of each book based on the scientific principles involved in the story.  

In keeping with the current belief among young people that all media should cost very little and preferably nothing at all, the books are priced at the impulse-purchase level of just £1.19 each. Clearly neither me or the Steves are going to get rich on the back of this adventure, given that Apple take 30% of the money and the App developers need to recoup their costs before we even start splitting our slim cut. There is, though, an undeniable frisson to be had from being involved, however remotely, at this media frontier and seeing your book covers in the iTunes Store. Especially for an old Apple-head such as myself. This is a still-developing area of publishing that’s set to become much more prominent over the coming years, with implications and opportunities for all of us.

 The ingenious people responsible for creating the Apps are Leicester-based company Sleepydog Ltd. Having produced eleven titles so far in this format, they are apparently keen to expand their list. This could be a great opportunity for any BiG members with an out-of-print book to which they own the rights to dip their toes in the iWater. If you’re interested, and have a beloved older title that you think might be a suitable candidate for the iPhone treatment, then contact Steve Skidmore, who’s been working closely with SleepyDog on this project, at [email protected]  and he’ll reply with all the details and info you’ll need. As I said, there’s unlikely to be your actual crock of gold at stake here but your inner pioneer will at least get a kick out of it.   

 In the meantime, if you do have an iPhone or iPod Touch and would like to see one of these book Apps in action, you could do a lot worse than to go immediately to the iTunes App Store, type ‘Vernon Bright’ into the search field and download any or all of the following titles:

Vernon Bright and the Magnetic Banana

Vernon Bright and Frankenstein’s Hamster

Vernon Bright and the Faster Than Light Show

Vernon Bright and the End of the World

Links to all the other titles published in this format by Sleepydog are just a click away from any of the above. 

I don’t often get to indulge in a shameless plug but I have to confess, that felt good. Two more books I did with the same authors are in the pipeline and due to hit the App Store in a couple of weeks. These are ‘Colin The Barbarian’ and ‘Colin II – the Barbarian Returns’. These were done in a sort of semi-Graphic Novel format, with pages or blocks of standard text intercut with comic-strip panels and speech balloons and might be of interest to anyone who’d like to see how comic strips work in this format. Including me! I’ll post an update as soon as they’re available.