A short while ago I was asked to test a new bookish app.  Naturally the first thing I thought was ‘braw, there’s a series of blog posts in that!’  So, over the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing a few booky apps for tablets and smartphones – kicking off today with the newly released Edinburgh Book App from purpleTrails.

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purpleTrails directors Allan MacDonald and Margot McCuaig on Calton Hill

So, what are we talking about?
The Edinburgh Book Trails app, which you can download onto any iProduct to help you explore the Edinburgh literary scene.

What can you do with it?
Explore literary Edinburgh by geographical location, historical or modern Edinburgh, crime fiction, attraction, or writers and poets.  Follow interactive literary trails, including a mystery game.  Watch interviews with authors including Christopher Brookmyre, Joan Lingard, David Nicholls, Sara Sheridan and more.

Who is it for?
Literature fans, tourists, writers, explorers, pub quizzers (there are some pretty interesting facts in there), people who want to find out more about Edinburgh, families who want to do something interactive – in particular I think the literature mystery trail led by crime author Pearl Litspur (Julia Sutherland) could be completed with a bit of joint effort across the generations!  Assuming people take me up on that, keep an eye out for bickering families gathered round their iPads on the Grassmarket this summer…

Where did it come from?
purpleTrails, which is the digital arm of independent television and digital media production company purpleTV and one of the main sponsors of this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.  They also had support from the City of Literature Trust and Scottish Enterprise.

Anything else I need to know?
It’s well designed, intuitive to use and a good mixture of visual, audio and information.

Where can I get it?
The app store, for £5.99.

£5.99?  I’m a bit of a skinflint, is it worth it?

Short version: Yes.

Longer version: I’ll level with you – I don’t normally pay much more than about £1.50 for apps.  I’m a tight fisted hand at the grindstone, me – on which subject, did you know that the idea for Ebenezer Scrooge came from a wander Dickens took in the Canongate Kirkyard?  I didn’t, until I tested this app…  Anyway, the reason for my stinginess is that I once paid £3.99 for an interactive book that DIDN’T BLOOMIN’ WORK.  Apparently, at the tender age of two, my iPhone was too elderly to cope.  So y’know, I’ve been burned.

Saying that, I’ve also been burned for touristy trips that don’t really give me information I couldn’t get from Lonely Planet.  We’ve all done those bus trips round foreign cities, listening to facts and figures on headphones and retaining them for approximately ten seconds – but although a good way to get your bearings, they’re quite expensive and don’t necessarily give you a sense of what makes a city special.  You’re more likely to get that from wandering around and exploring – but the trouble with that is that you do miss things.  What I genuinely like about this app is that it gives a real sense of Edinburgh’s unique literary place in the world, along with the support to wander round and discover for yourself exactly why the city is like it is.  A lot of work has gone into giving users enough information to see Edinburgh through the eyes of different writers, and it shows.

Find out more about the app and the purpleTrails gang on their website, or say hello on Twitter @purpletrailsTV.

You can also find out what Edinburgh Spotlight thought here, and read the Edinburgh Evening News lowdown here.

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