“i” on Digital Publishing: The Silent History (iOS App)

The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. The app is available as a free download from the App Store; the text itself can be purchased within the app by volume (1.99 USD) or as a whole (8.99).”

This is a new beast. After spending some time with the app and downloading the first (and currently only) volume of text for sale, I am enthralled and baffled by the scope and execution of this thing. Wired magazine described it as “part book, part multiplayer game, part map, and entirely revolutionary.” As a book it is a welcome experiment in e-serialization, and continuing proof that speculative fiction begs to be executed and delivered in a bleeding-edge basket.

Consuming this app, this novel, this interactivity—is not a task meant for anyone looking for the instant satisfaction of an easy-to-pick up video game. This is a project like “reading” is a project. Like finishing a long novel can be a slog. And I mention this because so often when a digital book or magazine “experience” get’s overhauled with technical bells and whistles, the text & literary content only shrinks to fit into many bite-sized blurbs, which accompany the aesthetically pleasing and featured visual content.

Using this app also reminds me of the first time I used the breakthrough iPad game Sword & Sorcery, where my frustration with not “knowing what to do next” in the game was as equally matched with my appreciation for the design, overall-detail, and ingenuity that was apparent regardless of whether I understood if I was “winning” or not.

The Silent History is a beast, a literary ibeast—and definitely worth investigating as it sets an early precedent for how to make better quality “digital” books—books which successfully marry the craft of storytelling into the core functionality of both its interactive premise and its thematic content. Coincidentally (and full-disclosure) this first came to my attention because it was co-written by a Digital Americana‘s Spring/Summer 2012 fiction contributor, Kevin Moffett.

[Source: The Silent History]

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