One side effect of the App Store is that we tend to take our entertainment from "small" sources, like a few minutes of Angry Birds or skimming a Twitter feed. But the folks behind The Atavist hope they can persuade us to take the time for a more in-depth experience. The Atavist is a new app, for both iPhone and iPad, that aims to present readers with unique, engaging long-form nonfiction.
The Atavist offers a new kind of nonfiction storytelling and narrative nonfiction, with a series of original stories designed specifically for the iPad and iPhone. More sustained than a magazine article but shorter than a book, each Atavist story is original -- reported and written by skillful, award-winning nonfiction authors.
Each Atavist story includes an audio recording of the author reading their work aloud; multimedia elements such as an accompanying soundtrack, videos, and maps; and "smart timelines" that orient the reader without giving away plot twists. Additionally, half of each purchase goes towards the author. And yes, you do have to purchase each individual story, though the app is free. Each story costs $2.99.
Unfortunately, at the moment The Atavist's library is limited to a mere two stories: Lifted and Piano Demon. That's hardly a broad enough foundation to stoke a reading revolution in the App Store. Compounded by the cost per story, which is a tough sell in the App Store's often ruthless market, and it's easy to see why The Atavist has yet to take off. Until the app gains more content, it'll be hard to shake the "demo" feel. And then the Kindle app and its rivals have done a good job of keeping reading alive in the App Store.
Regardless, if you're curious about what forms literary journalism could potentially take on the iPhone and iPad, The Atavist is very interesting. Download the free app (and, if you wish, free previews) from the App Store at the link below.