Biblion: Frankenstein

by Lizzy Walker

In the last issue of The Idaho Librarian, I reviewed the New York Public Library’s Biblion: World’s Fair App. This year, they released another app to their collection titled Biblion: Frankenstein. As with the first collection app the NYPL released, this one is getting positive reviews. The collection focuses on various aspects of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by means of primary sources, as well as photographs, videos, articles from current writers, and many other great things.

Upon opening the app from the portrait view, there is a sweeping trail of paper that forms a spiral the viewer looks into. There are then four categories the user may select from to manipulate the contents. Topics are divided into selected themes. The first, “Frankenstein,” is accompanied by a classic image of Boris Karloff in the iconic Frankenstein make-up. Within this portion of the app, there are thirteen articles, each focusing on various performances and interpretations of Shelley’s novel. Per selection, there is an “Ask Biblion” query where readers may address certain questions and interact with other users. There is even an interview with Karloff’s daughter, Sara, on his film career, which is particularly interesting.

The next section, going clockwise on the home screen, is “Creation & Remix”. This section contains articles on Shelly and her contemporaries, as well as how her work has influenced modern stories.

The next section traveling clockwise is “Shelley’s Ghost”. Much of this looks at the relationship between Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. It includes a portion of the graphic novel titled “An Illustrated Biography of Mary Shelley,” an essay on Byron and Percy’s friendship, and two articles devoted to her mother and father.

The last section, “Outsiders,” is perhaps the most interesting section of this app. Contained here are essays on ideas that we consider perhaps commonplace or about as unradical as they can get: equality between the sexes, questioning religious fervor, and similar.

By flipping the iPad to landscape view, the viewer gets another set of resources. The spiral contracts in and sits horizontally on the screen. The title for this section is simply “The Sources”. This holds the crux of the collection. There are five categories in this screen: Mary Shelley’s handwritten draft of Frankestein with transcription; The Esdaile Notebook: Percy Bysshe Shelleys’ Early Poems; Correspondence, Poems, and Tracts; Friendship Albums by Anne Wagner and Julia Conyers; and the prologue to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein. Several portions have transcripts that the viewer may peruse, include a letter from Claire Clairmont to Lord Byron. In the words of the writers, “Every idea in this edition of Biblion was inspired by a primary source document authored by the circle of people surrounding the Shelleys.” There is the suggestion here that, if the reader is looking at a specific resource in portrait, to flip the iPad to the horizontal to see primary sources.

Navigating through the app is simple. The user may pinch or swipe the screen to choose go back and forth between the four categories, as well as to return to the categories from the essay collections. Navigating within the essay collections is a simple swipe, going left or right. They have really streamlined things with this app.

One problem in the previous app was that there were so many layers that the manipulated within the collection that it seemed rather daunting. Here, that element has been done away with. There is no need for a “How to Use” the app section as NYPL improved on the previous model in such a way that it is very intuitive to use. The home pages for the categories only hold the title of the app, the selected theme, two featured articles, and one image from their collection. It doesn’t look nearly as busy as the previous app. Another aesthetic piece is the background color, a dark blue that gets slightly lighter the closer it gets to the center, and the spiral that also heads toward the center.

The cost is still free for Biblion users. Users can also share collections via Twitter, Facebook and email. If they think the app is worth sharing, and it definitely is, users may opt to share directly from the app.

Lizzy Walker currently works at the Boise State Albertsons Library as a Library Assistant 2. She earned her MLS with the SWIM cohort through University of North Texas.

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