Chasing Fireflies: A Haiku Collection, the new poetry app that includes over 150 haikus set against an interactive, changing landscape, conjures up words not often associated with apps; words like "beautiful," "art," and "emotion." The app was created by Honeybee Labs, its first in the interactive book space, and the developer's game design background is certainly evident when interacting with the poetry.
"Our job here was to enhance some of the best poetry ever written," said Ryan Modjeski, CEO of Honeybee Labs. "I remembered learning about the concept that haiku had embedded keywords, called 'kigo,' in each poem that inform the time of year the poem is meant to evoke. We took that idea and ran with it. I tracked down some phenomenal public domain haiku translations, and went about selecting the poems that really resonated with me, had a universal appeal, and covered a full range of emotions. We then matched the poems and their 'kigo' to the appropriate seasonal landscape."
Chasing Fireflies has a minimalist design and soundtrack, meant to enhance rather than compete with the poetry, which is the app's center. Leaves can be shaken out of trees, lights can be turned on in houses; the app's table of contents is a wheel, "signaling a book that has no beginning or end, no better place to start or finish, but instead it loops around itself as it passes from spring to summer to fall to winter and back again." Modjeski continued: "Then to further that cyclical metaphor, the user is able to rotate their tablet to see a new perspective on the landscape and page layout for each of the four orientations of the tablet."
Despite publishers' interest in seeing across-the-board upticks in book app sales as tablet sales continue climb, children's/storybook apps have dominated the market, while more "literary-minded" apps, especially, have lagged far behind. Modjeski is a fan of the Penguin Amplified e-book series (which includes Jack Kerouac's On the Road) and the recently released app for "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot, and he sees them as just the tip of the iceberg. "I think over the next few years, as this medium matures, you are going to see 'literary' apps become more and more accepted by readers," he said. "I also see high end non-fiction books being huge on the iPad. Al Gore's Our Choice and Skulls by Simon Winchester both come to mind. Together, they're bringing new ideas to books and I really like that. The fact is that the market is awash with quality titles for toddlers--but older kids, teens and grown-ups are hungry for quality content."
Honeybee Labs is hoping to help make the app space more inclusive, not only with Chasing Fireflies, but also with future titles. Next for the developer is a "total re-imagining of the 'choose-your-own' format." Said Modjeski: "It was always a favorite of mine as a kid and lends itself perfectly to the book app experience. We want to bring the same ease of use, refinement and fun we delivered in Chasing Fireflies to the kids book world, and on a much grander scale."