Pressing Play’s The Thing: Publisher Uses Apple’s iBooks Author Tool To Build iPad Editions Of Shakespeare

Sourcebooks, a U.S. book publisher, has used Apple’s iBooks Author tool to launch iPad editions of three Shakespeare plays on Apple’s iBooks 2 store. The iBooks include extra content focused on the history of each play’s performance — including photos, videos and audio clips of readings from various actors, along with study-friendly staples such as glossary resources, note-taking and highlighting features.

The series of iBooks carries the rather cringe-worthy title of The Shakesperience. The three plays in question are: Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet. Clips and snippets from different performances and readings of each play are incorporated into the iPad editions, with the aim of engaging readers and students. Audio clips are introduced by actor Sir Derek Jacobi — one of a series of Shakespearean actors featured in the iBooks.

“Teachers tell us it takes three weeks for students to become comfortable with Shakespeare’s language. The Shakesperience is designed to change the way you read Shakespeare,” the publisher notes in its marketing material for the iBooks.

Here’s more from Sourcebook’s blurb

Developed with leading Shakespearean scholars and ideal for students, each Shakesperience play provides special features that enhance the reader’s experience and make it the most friendly and fascinating Shakespeare you can imagine.

“We’ve taken what has traditionally been a difficult and generic experience and provided the opportunity for more engaged and lively learning,” noted Dominique Raccah, CEO and Publisher of Sourcebooks, in a statement. “Experts will love it, but what we’re most excited about is the impact it will have on educators and students.”

Apple’s iBooks Author tool was unveiled in January, when Apple announced a big push on textbooks in its iBooks ecosystem, with the launch of iBooks 2 for the iPad.

At the time we said the iBooks Author tool provides potential publishers with templates to build any type of iBook, not just textbooks. Sourcebook’s Shakesperience is something of a hybrid — you couldn’t really call it a pure-play textbook — suggesting there’s plenty of scope for Apple to continue expanding the number of interactive iBooks for iPad being added to its store.

We’ve reached out to Apple to ask how many titles are available in its iBooks 2 app store and will update with any response. (Update: An Apple spokesman said: “The only figure we’ve disclosed are ‘hundreds of thousands’ of books on the iBookstore.”)

Apple’s iBooks Author software is designed to make it easy to augment text by adding widgets and other graphical, interactive and multimedia elements via the drag and drop interface. The tool is free to download from the Mac App Store.