Sourcebooks Wants to Reinvent Shakespeare With The Shakesperience

Sourcebooks is trying to reinvent the way people learn Shakespeare.

“The way we do it now is too hard,” said Dominique Raccah, CEO of the Naperville, Ill.-based publishing house that has become known for its digital innovation.

Using digital technologies — primarily Apple’s iBooks Author and the Apple iBookstore — Sourcebooks has created a Shakespeare reading experience that integrates commentary, video, audio and visual elements with the text itself. The company calls its new product, available today in the iBookstore at $9.99* per title, The Shakespearience.

According to Raccah, the commentary, complimentary media and explanatory text that accompany most Shakespeare volumes take the reader out of the learning experience. The Shakesperience builds these features into the text so readers only have to tap to learn more — rather than search for it, an experience that “involves a certain amount of work,” said Raccah.

Aside from integrating the features into the text itself (see screen shots below), Sourcebooks added material that it believes will enhance the learning experience, including photographs from great performances of the plays, audio of great actors like Judi Dench, Orson Welles and others in classic Shakespeare rolls, corresponding video, and essays from famous Shakespearean directors and others. The product also includes features like rare, early recordings of performances, illustrations of costumes and set designs, a talk-like-Shakespeare voice coach and interviews with renowned Shakespearean actors.

The core of the content is from the Sourcebooks Shakespeare, another (multimedia) Shakespeare learning tool that comes with audio CDs. Sourcebooks Shakespeare took ten years to build, said Raccah, and much of the feature content for The Shakesperience is derived from this text. Much new content, including all of the video, had to be licensed and all of the old content had to be re-licensed for use in this new product.

Sourcebooks is putting out three titles to start, Othello, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. The company will put out more plays, starting in Nov. with Macbeth until it has published 12 Shakespeare plays. Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing will come out at the beginning of next year. The other six plays have yet to be determined.

As part of its initiative to build an educational division, Sourcebooks will be selling the product into schools as well as to Shakespeare enthusiasts.

“This is the promise of digital,” said Raccah. “We’re trying to take all the things that are in your way out.”

*Editor’s note: As of 8:47 AM EST on Oct. 2, we’re seeing it in the iBookstore for $5.99; the company has confirmed to Digital Book World that it decided to lower the initial price to $5.99 as an enticement to readers.

The Shakesperience audio integration.

The Shakesperience image galleries.

The Shakesperience glossary

The Shakesperience video and audio integration.




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