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Discover-the-Shakesperience-1024x834I tend to be sceptical of enhanced ebooks when it comes to fiction, because it seems to me that the enhancements get in the way of the creative side of reading, by interfering with the reader’s imagination.

Nonfiction and study-guides, though, are horses of a different colour.

For instance The Shakesperience, Sourcebooks’ enhanced electronic editions of Shakespeare’s plays, offers such features as image and video galleries of content from great performances, audio clips of readings by great actors, interviews, production notes and essays by directors  – and this is good, because Elizabethan theatre was written for performance, not really – or not just – to be read. So yes, I’m sure all of this makes for an excellent complement to the study of Shakespeare’s plays.

The integration of commentary and footnotes in the text, all of it easily accessible by tapping on the screen, while  perhaps not quite the revolution promised by Sourcebooks, is the answer to the awkwardness of studying on e-texts. (And I really want to think that, by saying that “the way we do it now is to hard” because having to search for explanatory text is “an experience that involves a certain amount of work” and will “take the reader out of the learning experience”, Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah refers to non-enhanced ebooks, and not traditional books, because otherwise, all my reservations about enhancements would come back in full force.) Now, this article nicely compares the merits of several enhanced editions of Shakespeare, such as the Folger Luminary, Wordplay, and Shakespeare in Bits, and it seems clear that the quality of integrated commentary is what makes the difference.

So, I’m not sure the Shakesperience or its competitors will “change the way we read Shakespeare”, but they certainly seem to provide a nice way to study his works without paper.