I've said before that no one knows what the future of storytelling holds. I love my Kindle, but it's essentially a centuries-old technology (paper) transposed onto an electronic screen. Ditto for reading on tablets; on some, even the page-turn is replicated.
To truly tap into the future of storytelling, a product must start from the ground up, utilizing current technology to truly transform the experience and offer value unique to its medium. Identifying the unique capabilities of technology is easier said than done, however.
One company has identified at least one of those capaibilities. Tapestry arose from an idea implemented by Robin Sloan in a tap essay titled Fish, released in April of last year. The essay was an app which, when opened, presented each sentence of the essay on its own screen. To move to the next sentence, users simply tapped the screen. It was a significant achievement in digital storytelling, as The Verge reported:
In Fish, there's no option to copy or paste text, scroll, highlight, or interact with text — there's no skimming, only reading. The lack of a back button slows you down, forcing you to read each line. Variations in typography, color, and number of words on the screen set the pace and tone.
Fish not only gave each sentence room to breathe; it also became a collaboration in timing between author and reader. While Sloan created the words and set the tone, the reader decided the pace of the story. The app was a hit (it was only available on iPhone).
Not long after the launch of Fish, Tapestry was born, allowing anyone to make a tap essay. On launch, Tapestry was only available on iOS devices, but the company recently launched an Android app.
The Android app is still quite lackluster- while the iOS app allows for search, browsing by category, and a bit more, the Android app only allows viewing of the 'featured' stories. Tapestry stories can also be viewed online, but the experience is much more pleasant on a mobile device.
It's worth mentioning that Tapestry is a Betaworks product. Betaworks has been making quite a splash lately, having brought Digg back from the dead, announcing a soon-to-be-released Google Reader replacement, and even purchasing a majority stake in Instapaper. It's clear that Betaworks gets the web, and is becoming a force to be reckoned with. They even have a /purpose page (which is well worth a read).
Though the Android app is spartan and featureless at the moment, it's well worth sticking it on your device to await future updates which, hopefully, will be coming soon. If you're an iOS user, well... consider yourself fortunate and go download the app.
In the meantime, I've put one of my original short stories on Tapestry to give you an idea of what the experience is like (check it out here), though, as I said, the experience is much better on your phone.
Tap essays may not be the future of storytelling, but it is the first format that takes advantage of the unique capabilities of our mobile devices. That's worth something.
Startups: Need a good copywriter? I'd love to speak with you; just send me an email.