Alice for the iPad is an iPad app that provides a both abridged and full text version of Lewis Carroll’s beloved book, Alice in Wonderland, for children. It’s solid, well done and has sold over 500,000 copies.
What’s interesting here is that this is an app, not an eBook file. What that allows is a bit more flexibility in the user interaction, animation on the pages, and full screen artwork.
However, just like an eBook in iBooks, you can swipe pages with an option to have the pages curl or just slide. (But you can’t freeze the curl to see the back side of the page.) As such the experience is very much like reading a book on the iPad, but has the best of both worlds because of the animations.
Given that philosophy, I found it a bit odd that the table of contents, page 2, isn’t active. That is, you can’t touch an entry and jump to that chapter. Given that the developer has great liberties with an app, that seems like an oversight.
With that out of the way, the real issue here is the target audience, kids, and the presentation, which is excellent. Each page has a colorful, thematic forrest background. There’s a Cheshire cat at the bottom which, if touched, takes you into the index and settings — with a royal toot. There are left and right arrows bracketing the Cheshire cat that provide an alternative method to change the page. If you wish you can make the Cheshire cat vanish and reappear only if that part of the screen is touched. I suppose one could have gotten cute here with how the Cheshire cat vanishes and reappears, but that has to be weighed against the UI responsiveness.
The abridged version is 52 pages instead of the full 250 pages, but the artwork is the same. That’s selected in the settings.
One notable feature is that some of the animations are sensitive to the movement of the iPad via the accelerometer. For example, the pocket watch on page 4 of the full version responds to both a finger tug as well as tilting the iPad to get it out of the way of the text behind.
I reviewed the iPad only app. It requires iOS 3.2 or later. There is also a light version for the iPad for free (even shorter than the abridged version at just 22 pages) and a version for the iPhone for US$3.99.
I think the book strikes the right balance between the pleasure of reading and the animation. After all, part of the fun of reading is creating your own mental images. So the eBook artform should supplement and enhance that, not try to replace it.
The book is on the expensive side as apps go, but it’s on the inexpensive side as far as eBooks go. All it all, given the charm of the presentation, if you’re inclined to provide this app to your child, it’s a good investment and may well become a treasured iPad app in your family.
Even so it’s not perfect. The royal toot can become tiresome and should be a setting: on or off. The T.O.C. isn’t live linked. There’s no user manageable bookmarking. The opportunity to be playful with the Cheshire cat may have been missed. And so the app gets a respectable, solid+ rating. I recommend it for kids of all ages. You know who you are.