Due to appear in App Store this Friday, Juraj Hlavac's "The Little Mermaid" does for Hans Christian Andersen what "Alice for iPad" did for Lewis Carroll. Namely, it transforms the book to a highly interactive, graphically-rich experience for reading.
Watching this trailer, I can't help but wish that there were a little more novelty in this app, or something that differentiated it from the "Alice" experience. There's only so much you can get from "let's shake the iPad" with flickable, tiltable animated elements before it's time to move on to more individualized expression.
The problem is that Alice, while delightful, is a bit of a one-trick pony and that Little Mermaid doesn't build away from that. If all interactive iPad novels devolve to the electronic equivalent of a shaken noisemaker, the genre will quickly saturate into meaninglessness.
In order to keep this genre of application-enhanced e-Books fresh, developers really need to step away from the easy answers of Chipmunk physics (that's the engine that drove Alice -- I'm not sure what solutions were used for the Little Mermaid) and bring artists and educators into the mix. Because what will drive the e-Book application genre is not going to be technology but vision.
Electronic books need more novelty to engage young readers and their parents than simple gosh-wow add-ons. Any application enhancement has to enrich the reading experience. Whether that means adding puzzles to master, language tools to teach, hyperlinks to explore, or embedded videos to watch, there must be a drive to both educate and entertain in those materials.
Little Mermaid looks like a solid and well-designed product, built with love and attention to detail. Unfortunately, we've already seen that product before.