October 4, 2012

Sourcebooks launches an appropriately punny Shakespeare app


Othello is one of the first three plays being released in the Shakesperience, along with Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet.

If the Folger Library’s ebooks and TouchPress’ sonnets app haven’t satisfied your thirst for Elizabethan apps, never fear — the Shakesperience is here.

I instantly fell in love with this project before I even found out what it was, due to my abiding love for puns, the cornier the better. And once I dug deeper (deeper in this case meaning: beyond the one-word title), I found that it’s actually a really interesting new series of interactive ebooks for an enhanced reading of Shakespeare’s plays, from independent publisher Sourcebooks.

Created with an eye to teaching Shakespeare, the new ebooks include several features that aim to make the plays more accessible to students, including an embedded glossary that lets the reader pull up definitions without leaving the page; Othello, for example, has more than 1,400 embedded definitions. Each play also features scene-setting audio introductions by actor Sir Derek Jacobi, along with image galleries of production notes, set renderings, and costume designs to help bring Shakespeare’s words to life. Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah told Publishers Weekly that while the new books offer video, educators tend to prefer audio features as a teaching tool. “Teachers tell us video is lean back and passive, while audio forces students to engage the text,” he explains, adding that Sourcebooks will continue to adjust the audio/video balance as they get further feedback.

In addition to these elements that primarily serve to educate and engage students, the Shakesperience has some features that will appeal to experts as well, like performances of the plays by celebrated actors such as Dame Judi Dench, Orson Welles, Kenneth Branagh, and Sir Laurence Olivier, among others. There is also a series of interviews with a full cast of actors describing how they approached their roles, and rare, private recordings by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edwin Booth, and a feature called “A Voice Coach’s Perspective on Speaking Shakespeare” by Andrew Wade, former voice coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Shakesperience is available exclusively for iPad at the moment, offering HamletOthello, and Romeo and Juliet, with more plays set to be released in the future.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.