Take a look at T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land', converted into a premium digital container (via @touchpress)

I stumbled on the TouchPress website recently, and onto a really interesting example of adding value to classic texts by translating them into a digital format. By utilising the power of the digital format, TouchPress hope the create more powerful interactive experiences. You've heard all this before, of course, but it's nice to see a practical implementation.

Books are one of the great defining inventions of our civilization—and today they are poised for a revolution. Our goal is to create a new kind of book that makes use of emerging consumer platforms such as iPad, as well as the latest computation capabilities and high-performance visual media.

A prominent example of the kind of digital book they're talking about is their The Waste Land:

This new digital edition of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land brings alive the most revolutionary poem of the last hundred years, illuminated by a wealth of interactive features. The title's groundbreaking design carefully respects the typography and integrity of the original poem, yet offers spectacular new ways to explore The Waste Land's significance and influence

Listed as features of this book-as-app are:

  • A powerful filmed performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, synchronised to the text
  • Complete audio readings of the poem, also synchronised to the text, by T. S. Eliot himself, Alec Guinness, Ted Hughes, and Viggo Mortensen
  • Comprehensive interactive notes to guide the user through the poem's many references
  • Over 35 expert video perspectives on the poem, filmed in partnership with BBC Arena, including contributions from Seamus Heaney and Jeanette Winterson
  • Original manuscript pages revealing how the poem took shape under Ezra Pound's editing

I've spoken to Virginia from booki.sh about adding value to the digital container in the past. She had commented:

Improving the container – beautifully designed ebooks, rather than some of the fairly appalling dross we’re seeing at the moment – is something I’m very interested in, but there’s a huge amount of inertia in the publishing industry.

Although I'm not generally a fan of books as applications, there is a point where you have to ask whether this kind of innovation can be provided by a generic digital format such as .ePub. To make an eBook more than a digital version of 'real-life' books, are hyperlinks sufficient, or does this kind of added value requires its own custom container?

You can preview the Waste Land application here: http://www.touchpress.com/titles/thewasteland/. It's definitely worth checking out.

You can find it on the Apple store here.