Review: The Magic of Reality, by Random House
The Magic of Reality, by Random House
• Great illustration by Dave McKean
• Easy to read and follow
• Built in multimedia and interactive demos
• No ebook included
• No built in text reader
With all the talk about using the iPad as an ebook reader, there are actually some alternatives to having ebooks through iBook (or Kindle and Nook apps). Some authors and publishers have been converting books directly into multimedia apps that are purchased directly on the iPad. Some textbook companies are doing the same using apps like Inkling. One app that caught my eye was “The Magic of Reality”, based on the book by Richard Dawkins.
The Magic of Reality attempts to explain...well…everything through the lens of science. It attempts to take what might be a simple questions, such as “Why is there night and day?”, and uses it to delve into a range of subject material, incorporating aspects of biology, physics, chemistry, and other branches of science. But it does so in an easy to read, approachable manner. Some people have said the book is aimed at children, and while I agree that it would be readable by some children, I would also say that it broaches topics that can be somewhat confusing in a straightforward manner.
One thing that this app does it is also includes great interactive, multimedia examples of the subject material. For example, when talking about predation and natural selection, it gives you the chance to try to artificially select frogs and breed them for a few generations…then it shows you how many of your frogs would be eaten for having too long or too short legs! Even the text pages on the book make use of iPad features – when you swipe to go to the next page, the image repositions itself and the test on the next page slides in around the image. So you can have the same image (or parts of the same image) appear on three or four “pages” of text – something that would be impossible in regular books.
The controls are very intuitive. Swipe left and right to change pages. Double swipe down to bring up the table of contents and chapter list.
That isn’t to say this app is perfect. I wish it did come with a regular ebook version of the book. I also wish there was more use of non-interactive demos – videos, animation, audio. There are some audio and video clips, but I would like to see more. Watching a quick demo through a video, or listening to some would really enhance some portions of the text. There also isn’t any option to have the text read to you (like an audiobook) which would probably help some people quite a bit.
A quick word about the artwork. Anyone familiar with the Sandman comics knows who Dave McKean is, and he has lent his unique and creative artwork skills to illustrate this text. While his artwork can be somewhat unusual, and may be an acquired taste, I found that it fit very well with the book, and loved his re-imagining some of the material in the book in a visual form.
All in all, I found this app a fun, easy to understand explanation of many scientific ideas Random House has made good use on the interaction that we have available on the iPad, including interactive demos and including some multimedia features as well. The artwork is great and really enhances the book. I do wish it had a little MORE multimedia, including a possible audiobook form, but all together this is a really nice app to bring the book to the iPad in a non-ebook format. Four and a half out of five stars.
Note, the book has caused some controversy for a variety of reasons I won’t get into now, but I am not reviewing the content of the book, so much as the book brought to the iPad in the form of an app.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.
Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.