Kind of, Sort of

I’m a few days behind on this one, but I wanted to point toward this post at Digital Book World:

Designed for the iPad as a complement to classroom studies for high school students, iBardRomeo is the first release in a series of iBard ebooks that will engage students in learning Shakespeare’s most popular works. Teachers and students can work and play with the ebook inside the classroom, at home, or even on the subway. Anywhere.

This is not exactly the same thing as what I discussed some months back, but it’s similar. For one, it’s not an Epub, but an app, which I really don’t believe is scalable or sustainable in the long-term for publishers, except for very specific projects. Publishers simply aren’t software developers and don’t have the time or money to become them. Nor should they. Their talents lie elsewhere.

More importantly, this enhanced version of Romeo and Juliet seems to rely more on media to “involve” the student than to really act as a gateway to the study of the play. Naturally, I don’t want to pass judgement before actually seeing the app myself, but it sounds like video is dropped in there as a supplement, not an integral part of the edition. “Watch a video of the famous balcony scene in a modern setting”: okay, but will this connect back to a discussion of the history of performance? Are there multiple live performances of this scene? Will it address issues about adaptation? A good teacher can explore these questions with this material, but it’s something the structure of this app suggests, not demands.

Obviously, this is more of a teaching text than a critical edition, as I talked about in the case of Hamlet. That’s obviously fine; I just hope the plot summaries and witty videos by Stephen Marche offer something more to the text than what a student could figure out by spending a few minutes Googling “Shakespeare.” It’s not added value if there’s not real editorial thought going into its conception and production.

Also, please don’t refer to Shakespeare as a “brand” ever again. Every time you say that a thousand unborn poets decide to pursue careers as venture capitalists.


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