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Review: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road for iOS

If you haven’t been paying much attention to what’s happening in the world of apps, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, released on June 18th by Penguin Books, is a production that’s bound to make you take notice.  I’d even venture to say that bibliophiles adamant that the use of an iPad or e-reader will never supplant their love of the bound book would agree that the amplified edition of this 20th-century classic is a supremely satisfying experience.

For anyone who has ever fallen under the thrall Kerouac’s writing and On the Road, the book was an entrée into the world of the Beat poets and a culture “alive with the spirit of a liberated underground America.…” But no longer will lovers of literature have to scramble for the backstories about the book’s publication, author, and characters: they’re all here, along with an extraordinary collection of photos, videos, audio recordings, and more.

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road
Author: Jack Kerouac
Platform: iOS 4.2 or later
Published by: Penguin Books �
Designed & Developed by: 1KStudios, a Cinram Digital Media Company

Gr 9 Up-With material from Kerouac’s estate and Viking’s archives, the producers and editors of this app offer readers an extraordinary window into a 20th-century publishing phenomenon.

First the book: the 1957 novel is here in full-text, along with reproductions of pages from the 1951 120-foot scroll version typed on tracing paper; early drafts of the novel; copyedited sheets; the author’s notes; and his travel journals and sketches. These, and comparisons of the versions with commentary, legal recommendations about the novel’s content, and early reactions to the work including one from the then consulting editor at Viking, Malcolm Cowley, make for fascinating reading.

On text pages of the novel unobtrusive tabs alert readers to added content in the form of character biographies (32 in all), many of which are accompanied by black-and-white photos, some never before published.

The material is well-organized and easily accessed under five headings: “The Book,” “The Author,” “Publication,” “The Beats,” and “The Trip.” This latter section offers interactive maps of Kerouac’s three cross-country jaunts; a tap on a city produces an enlarged image and related passages from the novel, and often, information on a mentioned site or landmark.

Under “The Author” are several short pieces by Kerouac on writing and “the Beats,” two video commentaries about him by his contemporaries, audio recordings of readings from On the Road by the author, and a collection of photos.

Bookmarking, passage location, “Go To,” and “Home” features are available, as is a gallery of international On the Road book covers. This exceptional production gives new meaning to the word “amplified.” Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal