Digital Reading Room: The Final Chapter

We close out our look at content-rich mobile apps with a round-up of the ones that caught our eye over the last year.

By Jeff Merron
Mon, December 02, 2013

IDG News Service —

A true treat, iPoe: The Interactive and Illustrated Edgar Allen Poe Collection beautifully enhances the writing of Edgar Allan Poe with illustrations by David Garcia Fores, most of which are subtly animated and interactive.
When I began this column a little more than a year ago, content-rich multimedia apps, designed primarily for the iPad, seemed like an increasingly innovative section of mobile app stores. Some iOS developers were coming up with new ways to present plays, books, photos, artwork, music, magazine content, and other materials, often adding both entertainment value and depth to the static, analog sources from which they drew.

That's changed over the past four or five months. Some great developers continue to produce extraordinary content-rich apps, but often off of formulas that they know work. Every once in a while, a stunning new app will appear, but not often enough to warrant a regular column. So this will be the final edition of Digital Reading Room. I've enjoyed it greatly, and hope to continue periodically bringing noteworthy apps of this type to your attention.

For this final column, I decided to draw some added attention to seven apps that have stood out from the crowd.

The Orchestra

The Orchestra
The Orchestra is stunning in that it allows you to view many aspects of an orchestra in action. You can change what you view the score, commentary, closeups of different sections, and so on, on the fly, while also listening to the piece without pause.

The Orchestra details, from multiple perspectives, the who, what, when, where, and why of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, Mahler's Symphony No. 6, Stravinsky's The Firebird, and five other pieces.

You can view each of the pieces in a variety of ways: on your screen, you can look at separate close-up videos of the conductor, the woodwinds, and the strings at the top of the screen, listen to or read commentary by the conductor or musicians as the piece plays, and view the score in real time on the bottom of the screen. You can also read about the background of the piece--and its place in the history of orchestral music.

Beautifully designed, The Orchestra, with its simple yet robust interactive multimedia elements, represents the power of the iPad, and skillful app producers, to make the complex accessible, and enjoyable.

Where to Get It: $14; iOS App Store

Barefoot World Atlas

Barefoot World Atlas
The appeal of Barefoot World Atlas comes with the fascinating, eclectic selection of features it displays, including the Rubik's Cube, discovered by flying over Albania to nearby Hungary, where the toy was invented.

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