Since we occasionally like to feature ‘extreme mapping’ in this blog, and recently looked at one of the hugest atlases EVER, to strike balance we just reviewed the Barefoot Atlas. It is relatively microscopic and as pleasing an example of atlas content for the iPad as you are likely to see (for now).
Ebooks hold great potential for literary authors with so many distribution platforms to take advantage of. However in the Atlas market there is a distinct lack of product that really utilizes devices such as the iPad effectively. The Barefoot Atlas has been touted as one example that does. Immediately apparent to the user is the beauty of the graphics. The opening screen includes a globe and illustrations which give it an ethnic, hand made quality. The delivery of the atlas appears far from hand-made (if that were, in the field of technology, a bad thing). This book is designed to take advantage of the new retina display technology on the latest iPads and I can only say that it looked beautiful on our antique, over the hill, has-been iPad2 so be prepared to have your eyeballs singed on the new model.
The visuals are slick, based on a 3-D globe familiar to users of Google Earth. The controls are simple – in fact at first glance the content looks sparse. Initially one can see that the globe is littered with small objects. Navigation is smooth and of course uses the touch screen and accelerometer to its fullest, in that one can increase gravity instantly by giving the earth a good hard spin. Each region has its own incidental music which appears appropriate but not stereotypical. The ‘objects’ include landmarks, historical features, monuments, cities and more. Each can be clicked for a small description with optional voice narrative.
To separate out the ‘information’ sections, the book uses audio and visual effects. The background music changes to a more subtle, atmospheric sound and the screen is divided using a shaded, transparent background. A photograph of each feature is also included. Users can also explore by region and by country. Again, each region, continent and country has its own detail page with a selection of facts and figures including terrain, climate, natural resources, environmental outlook, wildlife, transport and population. Each has a short description and optional voice narration.
For individual countries, a datasheet is included to show local time, distance from your current location, current temperature and weather. Flag, outline map, land area, currency and ‘eco-indicators’ like average CO2 emissions are also provided. There is definitely more than a hint of the eco message surrounding this book.
With much debate around right now about the value of the ‘whistles and bells’ that ibooks, ebooks and apps provide over and above the standard text, the Barefoot Atlas is certainly evidence for the ‘pro’ camp. The beautiful illustration and attention to detail that the background music and voice overs (from BBC presenter Nick Crane) provide only serve to compliment the appropriate level of content that is delivered.
Verdict: Cool for younger children to play, great for older ones to use as a reference tool.
What are you looking for in an atlas these days? Are E-books the way forward? Do you see them as taking the traditional atlas to the next level or as a gamifying distraction to educational content? What are your favorite Geography-related ebooks/apps?
We would love to hear your comments.