Sourcebooks publishing house has recently released a line of ebook/iPad apps called The Shakesperience. Using the iPad's technological capabilities, these books provide a multimedia experience that allow readers to interact with Shakespeare's plays. Each play features an embedded glossary of approximately 2,000 terms; video and audio commentary, interviews, and introductions by thespians; classic scenes and performances by respected actors like Orson Welles, Paul Robeson, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Dame Judy Dench, to name a few; presentations analyzing the historical and social context of selected scenes; production notes from past performances that include costume and set design, and stage directions; interviews with the full casts and directors of productions; and, finally, "interviews with voice coaches on how to approach the Bard's various characters."
Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks, said that the app was developed with input from teachers and theatre professionals, specifically in regard to the difficulties they encounter teaching and relating Shakespeare to students and modern audiences. The glossary and other elements that deal with Elizabethan language were a central focus because "getting into the language of Shakespeare" was identified as a universal hurdle for educators. Audio content took precedence over video, as teachers felt that audio forces students to engage with the text, whereas videos present a more passive experience.
"We've taken what has traditionally been a difficult and generic experience, and provided the opportunity for more engaged and lively learning," Raccah said. "We suspect enthusiasts will love it, but what we're most excited about is the impact it will have on educators and students."
The educational possibilities are what excited me so much about the app as well. The problem is that the use of iPads, and thus the app, is not a feasible possibility for most schools because of budgetary restrictions. However, as classrooms become more wired through the use of smartboards and other technology, it may not be long before the app becomes a viable teaching aid, even if not on the level of individual students.
Shakesperience editions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello are all currently available through iTunes and Apple's iBookstore for $9.99 each. Additional titles will be released in the coming months, and supplementary content for purchased titles will be available through upgrades, though it is undetermined whether or not they will be free.