What a Next Generation Classic Should Look Like: Touch Press' The Waste Land

Photo by RichardBH
“April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.”
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
The possibilities for creating next generation eBooks out of classic works, such as Ulysses or The Iliad, is tremendous. Such texts can be challenging for many reasons; they can have multiple layers of meaning that are difficult to tease out, can reference cultural touchstones that are out of date, and frankly can be dry without having a great teacher to guide you. These are texts that literally require the reader to struggle with them in order to unlock their material.
Next generation eBooks can be thought of as marginalia on steroids
There is a long tradition of marginalia to help readers with these books, such as footnotes, separate helper texts containing commentaries, other readers scribbling notes into the margins, and more. Next generation eBooks can be thought of as marginalia on steroids: you are no longer constrained by a tiny margin to fit a footnote, or just static text. You don’t have to literally reference another book every other sentence to help you unlock things, such as needed for Ulysses; advanced commentaries can be interleaved into the digital eBook itself, whether through audio, video, or even stretch text.