While the Kindle continues to solve storage problems for the bibliophile on the go, it is the iPad that is actually changing what books are and stretching our definitions of reading. Here is my
selection of the ten best iBooks released for it this year:
The Waste Land
To anyone unconvinced about the appeal of iBooks, I can only present this, the greatest edition of T.S. Eliot’s
The Waste Land that has ever been published. You can use it to read the poem, with or without notes, or to have the poem read to you by the likes of Eliot and Alec Guinness. You can also
watch a peerless performance of the text by Fiona Shaw and absorb all manner of supplementary material from experts including Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. The evolution of iBooks is so swift that,
by this time next year, this app will no doubt look positively outdated — but, for now, it is the very best e-reading experience available on any device.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
A celebration of the joys of reading that demonstrates how those joys can be enhanced, and not diminished, by new technology, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore is both one of the best books I’ve read and one of the
best films I’ve seen this year.
Released late enough in 2010 to qualify for a list covering 2011, Solar System is, after The Waste Land, the second entry in my top three from the groundbreaking partnership of
Faber and Touch Press, and is further evidence that no iBook publisher has been able to compete with them this year. The app is a sequel to The Elements, the astounding launch title that
attracted so many scientifically minded consumers to the iPad, and it is just as awe-inspiring as its predecessor. I can’t imagine an intelligent mind that would not be captivated by this
marvel of modern publishing.
Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies
Featuring over 300 reviews of the world’s greatest films by the world’s greatest film critic, The Great Movies costs less than a pound and is easily the best bargain I’ve found this
It is an indication of just how astonishing Faber’s The Waste Land is that iF Poems is only the second-best poetry app released this year. It collects 200 poems that should
be a part of every child’s education and every adult’s mental library, and pairs each with a brief and entertaining biography of its author. The app’s best feature, though, is its
collection of readings by Helena Bonham-Carter and Bill Nighy, which alone make it one of the year’s best audio books. I hope those responsible for iF Poems are as proud as they
deserve to be. They have not just collected delightful verse in a delightful app: they have, I am sure, made many children fall in love with classic poetry.
Star Trek PADD
A Star Trek encyclopaedia that looks — and sounds — like the computers on the starship Enterprise, this is just as silly, fact-filled and fun as it sounds. I’m not quite
enough of a Star Trek fanatic to exhaust PADD’s geeky delights but, if you are, it is reason enough to buy an iPad.
War in the Pacific
The best iBook for fans of military history, War in the Pacific manages to combine the appeal of a well-written tome with that of an eye-catching documentary. In the future, all books
about the past will be like this.
Composition No. 1
Having released a selection of extraordinary paper books, such as Jonathan Safran-Foer’sTree of Codes, Visual Editions pushed even further forward in 2011 by
resurrecting Marc Sapporta’s 1962 ‘book in a box’ on the iPad. The novel’s pages are designed be read in any order and, as such, Composition No. 1 is as much an
interactive art exhibit as a book.
The National Geographic’s 50 Places of a Lifetime
Combining sumptuous photography — equal to that in The Guardian’s essential Eye Witness app — with the appeal of a ‘best of the National
Geographic’ compilation, this tour of the world’s most fascinating locations is a pleasure for both the globetrotter and the armchair traveller.
The Original Adventures of Peter Rabbit
Because they can combine the written word with narration, sound effects, computer games and gorgeous graphics, iBooks have even more potential to transform the reading habits of children than of
adults. Each of the aforementioned attributes is to be found here, in an app that, for all its 21st Century showiness, still manages to look and feel like the Beatrix Potter books on which so many
of us grew up.