On 28 June, Faber & Faber releases an app of the Sonnets. It follows their multi-media version of TS Eliot's "The Waste Land". That not only raised the bar for literary apps but earned back the six-figure outlay its development required. Faber has again collaborated with digital publisher Touch Press, with film elements produced by TV company Illuminations and the Arden Shakespeare edition providing text, notes and commentary.
Compared to this sort of inbuilt interactivity, Faber's Sonnets offers more of a traditional immersion. You don't have the option to adopt the POV of the Dark Lady or the fair youth. Instead, 40 different readers – introduced by the august tones of Patrick Stewart – invite us to boldly go through the sequence of poems. You can watch them read the verse, with or without the Arden text and its famously exhaustive notes.
For Faber's digital project manager Eoin Noble, the notes matter as much as the stellar reciters: "We've given them a lot of love and attention. They really do behave in a joined-up way." Overall, the "high production values" signal Faber's intention to reach an audience which hankers for more than a throwaway app costing 99p. The Sonnets, which cost around £100,000 to develop, will sell at £9.99: "higher priced but reasonably priced," Noble suggests.
The interface lets you switch easily from video performances to the text of each sonnet. The text is accompanied by the Arden Notes, Commentary, and My Notes sections in the left sidebar.
The videos run in the page and you can tap anywhere on them to make them play or pause. Of course they can be tapped to view in full-screen mode as well.
The Perspectives section is fascinating as well. It offers videos of the actors, theater folk, and eminent scholars – giving their thoughts on a broad range of questions about the sonnets. These include what is a sonnet, what are the sonnets about, the sonnet form, Shakespeare’s contribution to the sonnets, dating the sonnets, who are the sonnets addressed to, are the sonnets autobiographical, sex in the sonnets, the stories of the sonnets, sound of the sonnets, the sound of the original pronunciation, and Time and love as themes.
David reads Sonnets:
12 When I do Count the Clock that tells the Time
18 Shall I Compare thee to a Summer's Day
71 No Longer Mourn for me when I am Dead
126 O thou, My Lovely Boy, who in thy Power
If you don't have an iPhone it's ok you can buy the Sonnet's on DVD!