Ok, let’s face it, if you’ve got an iPhone you’ve got the Complete Works app. It’s free, it’s awesome, go get it.
But is that it? Is Shakespeare on the iPhone done?
Oh, heck no.
Omnitoons has thrown down the competitive gauntlet with their Bard’s Dream, a graphic novel adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream. With it’s new $1.99 price (more on that later) I’m hoping to start a stampede for this one.
I was skeptical at first, especially with a $2.99 pricetag for a single play (in a competitive landscape where the text of the complete works is free?) But then they released a Lite version (act 1 only) and I got a peek, and my opinion completely flipped. I’m very impressed with this idea.
I wonder, of all the people in that opening paragraph who have the free Complete Works app ever actually *read* the thing. I’ll admit, I don’t. I keep it for reference, but I don’t break it out for pleasure.
With Bard’s Dream you could cruise through the something like 1000 frames and just enjoy the pictures. You know the play, but you don’t know how they’ve chosen to render it, so there’s something new. Even better, and maybe this will turn out to be their hook, is that they’ve packaged both the original and “modern” translation, and you can flip back and forth. (This by itself is not new, we’ve reviewed Manga Shakespeare and Classic Comics which have done the exact same thing – but dynamically putting them both in front of you at the same time? Wonderful idea.)
Disclaimer : When I saw the app come through at $2.99 I commented on Twitter that I found it too expensive. This got me in contact with the Omnitoons folks, and I made my case – no opportunity to take it for a test drive, competing against the free version, etc… I suggested more like a $1.99 price. I don’t expect that I’m the only one they talked to, but now that they’ve actually *done* it, I certainly feel obliged to back them up on their decision. I am not getting any sort of kickback or affiliate link out of the deal.
It’s not perfect. 1000 frames is a *long* story. You don’t get much text on a page. In a graphic novel world you might see 6 or 8 frames on a page, but here you’re getting 1 frame at a time. That ends up making a relatively short story like Dream look like War and Peace. On the other hand, you just paid for this visual entertainment, so you want to get your money’s worth, no? There’s something to be said for it not being over too quickly.
Four things I’d like to see:
1) Turn the engine into a player in general, and give me the chance to buy more plays. If Hamlet comes out as a micropayment for 99 cents inside this app? I’d be all over it. Heck, I’d probably buy them all like that – and now suddenly you can envision a company making something like $38 off the complete works, while the competition is giving it away. That’d be fun.
2) I’d love to see the language flipper be more dynamic so that, right from the page, you could change back and forth. That’d bring it closer to the side-by-side approach used by some of the No Fear versions, and give people a better understanding of “Oh, ok, when Shakespeare says this he really means that….”
3) Much like Classic Comics did, make 3 versions. Keep the original text, a “modern” text that tries to be a direct translation, and then a “quick text” which is much shorter and looser. I turned my 7yr old geeklet daughter loose on this app with the modern text, and it was still too advanced for her. But, she’s the perfect audience to appreciate the graphic novel illustrations. So if the text was a little bit more on target for her, she’d be a total fan.
4) There’s a typo on their title screen, they call it “Nights Dream” with no apostrophe. In all their literature it’s correct, they just missed it in their title graphic. That’s incredibly trivial, but it bugs me :).
I think I’m going to like this company. I originally commented that I love their attitude – in the description of their own app they even write of the competition, saying something like “Besides the app that we all know everybody has, including us. How could we not?” Then later, they refer to their “modern” translation as being for “intelliwannabees”. That’s pushing the boundaries a bit, you run the risk of turning off people who actually want that translation. But I loved it :). I especially love that they spotted my commentary, opened up a dialogue, and appear to have listened.
If you’re a Shakespeare Geek with an iPhone, you’re gonna want to check this one out. Now that they’ve got a free Lite version (whether or not that was at my urging as well, I don’t know :)), what have you got to lose? How many of us live by that “more Shakespeare is always a good thing” mantra?