In another life, I was a writer.
My last visit to the The British Library occurred in 1998 while it was still housed in the British Museum before being moved to Euston Road. I was, at the time, fascinated by Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. In the British Library's display case, I felt moved to tears to see Woolf's true, insightful words penned in her very own handwriting on the original manuscript. I, too, at the time, used pen and paper.
In this life, I am part of a team developing mobile applications.
The British Library app was an interesting challenge in that there is a nearly unlimited amount of content to choose from. British Library did a great job of outlining the app structure and content before they even got started building the app in Toura’s Mobile App Producer. That planning allowed them to produce a very user-friendly application that curates the experience of navigating the content, while also providing valuable insight through multi-media assets about their collection.
Heeding the reviews in the Android Market about the time required to download the app, I paid what I think was $1.99 or €1.99, not sure which, to download the app on my Droid X, set a timer to find out exactly how long it took, and learned more about Toura.
According to Toura's Twitter bio, "Toura is a scalable app creation tool for a variety of mobile platforms including the iPhone/iPad & Android." From Toura's overview page: "With no upfront fees, Toura’s clients can rapidly deploy to market cutting-edge mobile applications, without having to develop any technical expertise." I'm interested in learning more about what sounds like a creative, clever mashup of Appcelerator, our Handshake(TM) App, and Google App Inventor.
I then read reviews of the British Library's app (major ones listed below in alphabetical order by source):
All Things Digital: Finally, a Quick Way to Check the Codex Sinaiticus on the Go
Los Angeles Times: British Library debuts smart-phone app
ReadWriteWeb: British Library App Brings Dickens, The Beatles, Beowulf to Your Smartphone
Wall Street Journal: 1,000 Year Old Poems. There’s an App for That?
ZDNet: British Library app brings original Beatles lyrics to phones
I then did other tasks. The download process for the British Library Mobile App will remind users of standing in line to get into the British Library during the summer. Or perhaps into Hogwart's at the Harry Potter Theme Park. I followed the app's pre-download guidance to use WiFi, chose the full assets over the photos only option and, after 25 minutes, had downloaded 29% of the app's assets. Downloading the entire app took about 85 minutes.
True fans wait, though. Once downloaded, the app worked so intuitively that I was able to go where I wanted to first: to satisfy my curiosity about what the British Library was tweeting about with the hashtag #evolvingenglish. Then I had to see The Canterbury Tales because Mrs. Amos at Blacksburg High School made us memorize the Prologue, so I read along and aloud straight from the Middle English. I tapped "Literature" and idly scanned the list to see what the British Library had chosen from its truly unlimited collection…and, oh! Surprise, joy, moved again. There she was.
Mrs. Dalloway was an app.