Personally, I like reading traditional, app-free books. I like to immerse myself in a story, taking a break from all the pictures and links and interactivity.
But I also recognise that things are changing, and that people have different reading styles. The digital world offers so many new possibilities, from ‘enhanced’ ebooks to interactive apps. It’s important to keep up with what’s happening.
So today I’m talking with Vince Kamp, who recently released his children’s graphic novel Robotslayer as both a book and an interactive animated app. He talks about why he decided to create the app and what readers can do with it, and gives a few tips for authors who might want to create their own book apps.
Because there is so much more you can do with an app to really enhance the story. The soundtrack adds drama and interactive elements enables the readers to engage with the story. I saw my kids playing with apps and games and realised kids are more likely to go back to it if there is that interaction.
What can kids do with the app, and how does it tie in with the physical book?
There are lots of hotspots that will play sound effects, make things buzz or explode and shoot off lasers….or make rats fart. There is also a mini game for the reader to try their robotslaying skills and see if they have what it takes to join the robotslayer training academy (the main character is unaware that he’s being trained while playing the video game). The effects enhance the story and give the reader more of an experience versus simply swiping pages. They enable the reader to take part.
Can people use the app without reading the book, and vice versa, or are they dependent on each other?
The app is essentially the same as the book, just supercharged with effects, the mini game and musical score. They can be enjoyed independently or complement each other.
How did you go about developing the app?
I had to find a company that was super enthusiastic for the project, this had to be fun as well as productive. It was key that they understood the importance of story and not just throw in their tech wizardry to show off what could be done. Hover Studio were just the perfect company to work with. We met regularly and talked through what we wanted it to be and stuck to it.
What advice would you have for other authors who want to do something like this?
Try to think of how the story can be enhanced using interaction and the tech available right from the start. Make sure that the story doesn’t suffer and that you’re not just doing it because you think you’re supposed to. It has to add to the story. Find a company that gets what you’re trying to do. Don’t compromise on who you work with if you can.
What kind of response have you had so far?
The response so far has blown me away, I have had such fantastic comments. Some parents have told me about their children who don’t normally like reading have read it several times over. Older kids are keen to find out how they can make their own stories for iPad and where to start, so it’s just very humbling to know it’s now out there, inspiring people to consider new and different ways to experiment with reading.
Do you think books in general will have to become more interactive to engage the next generation, or will there always be a place for old-fashioned print books?
I love digital, I think the possibilities are intoxicating but I love printed books too. I love holding them, their texture, smell and feel. That’s weird right? The appeal is about feel, it’s not really logical, perhaps it’s nostalgia! I can’t see them going away just yet, but the next generation does want more, they want more choice, they want to decide how and when they consume content and publishing Robotslayer physically and as an interactive app is another way to cater to that. Everyone is fighting for attention so finding a way to enhance storytelling is important.
What are you working on next?
Everyone keeps asking me about Robotslayer 2. They seem to want more and of course, I love that. I am also considering working on a more involved Robotslayer game that will continue the story, but reading and writing is where it all starts. I think you need to read and write your own stories to learn about storytelling. I’d like to try and help my children and any others that will listen with that.