Richard Overy’s illustrated history of the War in the Pacific 1941-45 was published by Carlton last year. It’s one of Carlton’s best-selling ‘Treasures and Experiences’ series of richly illustrated, large format hardbacks, built around a collection original documents or pieces of memorabilia.
Developers Gameloft have remade the book as an iPad app recreating faithfully the look and feel of the hardback. The app adds several archive films (which admittedly we haven’t found yet) and at least one interesting longer document embedded in the text – a copy of ‘Yank’ magazine for example. Documents and photographs can be magnified to near full screen size and browsed in a gallery: another interesting way to explore the history. There’s also a musical soundtrack which plays throughout and the maps opening each section have been animated.
Gameloft have created a string of successful games for the iPhone and other mobile devices, particularly polished 3D war-themed games; an interesting partner for a publisher. However, they haven’t added gameplay to the app; even with the enhancements the app is a faithful reproduction of the book. What this is, just like an iPhone game, is a richly rendered, yet still casually accessible, experience.
In fact some of the navigation choices the developers have made don’t work as well as they might. The page turning mechanism isn’t as responsive as the one in iBooks and the UI for the picture gallery is very odd. This doesn’t much interfere with linear reading, but makes flicking through the content trickier than it might be. This isn’t the perfect app version of a picture book.
On the other hand having a book like this, normally a hefty hardback, on a device you’re already carrying means you will read it easily anywhere and the reading experience is comparable. That’s this app’s strength – liberation.