Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crushes #I: McSweeney's iPhone app

I have a crush on McSweeney's iPhone app, although really, I have a crush on McSweeney's x, where x is any freaking thing McSweeney's has ever done. The app is very elegant and I like the randomness of it--this is true of McSweeney's in general I guess--it's kind of whatever we felt like sending you. In this case, wirelessly.

So far the content on it is hit and miss--which is consistent with other McSweeney's stuff too actually. I don't love everything McSweeney's ever publishes. I just almost always find it worth investigating, and sometimes I read a page and then skip the rest, or sometimes I find myself completely immersed in a story by an author I've never heard of. The subscription costs $6 for the first 6 months, which is OK by me too since I will apparently pay as much for the iPhone version of The Game of LIFE and then never play it. (It turns out that the most fun aspect of that game, which was spinning the giant Wheel of Fortune style spinner, does not translate to touchscreen.)

One of the ostensible reasons I got an iPhone was to make my commuting time on the bus more effective, not in the sense of actually getting work done, but in the sense of getting off the bus not feeling like I've just wasted an hour of my life. So far I have learned how to put avi videos on my phone and watched a few episodes of Lost, found a few new podcasts I'm interested in, and downloaded the McSweeney's app. So Crush Ib can be my iPhone itself, in all its sleek, purple-cased glory.

Also: my library, along with every other library in the developed world, is currently trying to figure out how it is going to interface with the 21st century and ebooks are part of the discussion. And as the virtual services librarian, I'm expected to have an opinion. I don't use ebooks much except in their native PC, DRM-my form, so this is good exposure for me. I feel like someone visiting Japan: People read? On their CELLPHONES? What?

The way the content in the McSweeney's app is delivered is, I think, an example of how to do a good job formatting text for a tiny screen. It looks attractive and it's easy to read and the pieces themselves are short so you don't feel too overwhelmed. But at the same time, I take a kind of anti-Internet position when it comes to whole books. We already invented the ultimate format for books, and it's called books. The hardware and software never stop working and never need to be updated. There are no batteries. Once you buy the content, it can't be deleted. You can lend it to someone very easily. And two thousand years from now someone will be able to pick up the books we published in 2009 and read them. As long as they were printed on acid-free paper.

No comments: