As releases iPad app for Kerouac classic – Three reasons why book apps are here to stay
Penguin has announced a new iPad app for Jack Kerouac’s classic On The Road, hot on the heels of Faber & Faber’s release of an all-singing, all-dancing The Waste Land app. Book apps are getting a lot of attention, and here’s why I think they will be here to stay even after the novelty factor has worn off.
A new medium
It’s hard to imagine in my lifetime that the need for the long-form printed word will ever go away. Paper might, but words won’t.
Having said that, there are certain types of books where only having words is clearly a compromise to some degree and where readers would get a lot more benefit by combining words with audio, or with moving images or – in the future – the addition of smell and touch.
Book apps give publishers the chance to overcome the limitations of print, but at the same time keeping its best features. No more shall a novice cook have to attempt to the whirlpool egg poaching technique through some vague written instructions and unilluminating still photography! Which brings me to my next point…
Words and Music Go Together
Ever made a playlist that was inspired by a book? I did it after reading Jennifer Egan’s A Visit To The Goon Squad recently; someone once gave me a mix CD of songs from Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, a favourite book of mine (and a treasured compilation); the author David Nicholls even made a Spotify playlist of songs from his hit novel One Day, revealing what was on a mixtape that is mentioned in the book.
Nick Cave took the concept a step further for the audiobook version of his novel The Death Of Bunny Munro, collaborating with musician Warren Ellis to create an evocative soundtrack. It was designed specifically for listening to with headphones.
Putting books and music together could be a great way for book publishers to enhance reader’s experience (and create some valuable word of mouth publicity). At the same time, music publishers could use the opportunity to make their back catalogues work that much harder for them.
Publishers like Penguin and Faber & Faber that have been around forever and have published a lot of famous books by famous authors must have a considerable amount of archive material sitting around in storage – publicity materials, interview recordings, correspondence and so on – that would be of interest to fans.
Apps are a useful and potentially exciting way for readers to have access to some of this material. Penguin has demonstrated with the On The Road app (it features recordings of Jack Kerouac reading extracts, original book reviews, notes from the publisher, Viking). Amazing information that fans of the book will love that was previously only available to academics. Faber & Faber did the same by including readings by T.S. Eliot and Ted Hughes, among others, on The Waste Land app.
As a knock on, it can be this extra material that can turn a reader from someone who quite liked a book into someone who really wants to read an author’s backlist.
Here’s the full low down of what the Kerouac app delivers from Penguin.
Press release - Pulsating with the rhythms of jazz, frenetic sex, illicit drugs, and the mystery and promise of the open road, this iconic novel defined what it meant to be “beat” and captured the impulses of a liberated underground America. Based on Jack Kerouac’s adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends crossing the country in search of a new kind of experience and authenticity that they could not find in mainstream culture. Expressing a quintessential American vision of freedom and longing, On the Road is a timeless tale that resonates with each new generation.
With the complete text of the original 1957 novel at its heart, this digital edition has been curated by Penguin editors, the Kerouac estate, and Beat scholars and includes a set of spectacular features that immerse readers in the book’s backstory and legacy—making for a truly unique literary encounter.
Rare and Never-Before-Seen Material
- Prized family photographs from Kerouac’s estate, many published here for the first time
- Exclusive audio clips of Kerouac himself reading three excerpts from an early draft
- Documentary footage of fellow Beats sharing their firsthand impressions of Kerouac and thoughts on his celebrated literary career
- Pages from the journals Kerouac kept while on the road, with notes on the novel’s plot and structure
- Reproductions of Kerouac’s first draft of the novel on the 120-foot scroll as well as later typescripts with corrections made by him and his editors
- Slideshow of cover art from international editions of On the Road over the last half century
- Extensive collection of original reviews, showing the literary community’s reaction to a major new voice
- Tributes to Kerouac and On the Road by leading artists from John Updike to Bob Dylan
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Publication
- Previously unreleased documents from the archives of Viking, the novel’s publisher, that contain the earliest reactions to the manuscript of On the Road and letters between Kerouac and his editors about its revision
- Side-by-side comparisons of Kerouac’s famous original scroll draft and the published text, highlighting the editorial work that went into his masterpiece as well as the elements removed on the recommendation of Viking’s lawyers—including some of Kerouac’s most explicit treatments of sex, drug use, and other “obscenities”
- An expert introduction to the story of the book by Beat scholar Howard Cunnell on Kerouac’s writing process and the years leading up to publication
An Encyclopedic Take on Kerouac and the Beats
- Fully interactive map of the now legendary trips from 1947, 1949, and 1950 taken by Dean and Sal in the book, with historical photographs and notes on the contemporary context
- Complete text of the 1957 edition of the novel, thoroughly annotated with biographies of the real-life Beats behind the famous characters, notes on their favorite hot spots and hangouts around the country, and explanations of cultural references
- Gallery of new and classic photographs of all the famous Beats
- Detailed biography with an in-depth look at Kerouac’s personal and artistic life
- Noteworthy articles by Kerouac on his unique, innovative writing style and the philosophy of the Beat generation
- Comprehensive list of further reading, including Kerouac’s full body of work and an extensive Beat generation bibliography
Additional Technical Features
- Easy book navigation features, including text search, bookmarks, and the ability to flip pages with a tap or swipe
- Sidebar annotations alongside the novel hide away for an uninterrupted reading experience
- Complete app functionality in portrait and landscape orientation
- Reproduced archival documents can be enlarged to full screen with a double tap