Wednesday, September 30, 2009


From the press release:

Scarab, the first literary magazine for the iPhone, now available in the AppStore

Scarab combines the intimacy of reading with the thrill of being read to by your favorite author.Taking full advantage of the iPhone’s capabilities, Scarab plays a recording of a poem, essay, or short story as the reader scrolls along with the text. Beta-testers found the experience to be an,“Ingenious concept that brought the poems to life.”

Each edition of Scarab consists of 11 works of poetry or prose, and an interview with a respected author. The content of the first issue is even more stunning than the use of the new medium. Scarab offers work by former Poet Laureate Charles Simic, National Book Critics Award Finalist Tony Hoagland, David Rivard—recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship—and Chase Twichell, dinner of the Hugh Ogden Prize for Poetry. There is also work by exciting new writers MRB Chelko, Hannah Gamble, and David Blair.

The application is available through iTunes for $0.99 in the US, and makes use of the iPhone 3.0 SDK’s new “in app purchasing”. The editions of Scarab are purchased and downloaded directly in the application to your iPhone or iPod Touch for $2.99 or a similar price worldwide.


My Take

After I posted this excerpt, I downloaded the software, paying the $0.99 one-time charge for the app and $2.99 price for the first edition. It's a good product. Since I listen to a lot of poetry podcasts, this feels like the next new thing for journals.

I like the idea of audio and text on my phone. I like reading the poem with the scroll screen while hearing the poet's voice. It's easy to use, and I enjoyed hearing poems by Charles Simic, Jennifer Flescher, and Chase Twichell. And, there's something about Tony Hoagland's voice that makes me believe him no matter what he says.

What I'm not sure about is whether or not I'd pay $2.99 to download new issues. I like the software, but with so many free podcasts and online journals, it's hard to justify paying for this. But, I do believe in supporting journals in whatever form they take. We'll see if the next issue is as good as the first.

Also, I find the sound quality inconsistent. One poet may sound clear as a bell, while the next one sounds as if he/she has recorded their message over the phone. There may be no way around that issue. And the interview with David Rivard was text only. Since this is an audio product, I would have enjoyed the audio interview to accompany it.

Just to be clear, this is my opinion, not a review. You can find out more on the Scarab Web site.


Catherine said...

I probably wouldn't mind paying $2.99 to download each issue, but there's no way I'm going to pay out big bucks for an iPhone.

Kells said...


Thanks for that! I love listening to poetry. And you can subscribe to their podcasts, which I did.

Brian Wilkins said...

Thanks for the note, and the comment about the podcasts. I just wanted to quickly remind your readers that with Scarab you're not just supporting the journal: 20% of the issue price goes directly back to the artists. And you were correct about the sound--there were some limitations this time, but we're hoping to improve consistency in the future.

Thanks again,
Brian Wilkins
Editor of Scarab

January said...

Good luck Brian. Hope you can make a go of it because it's a worthwhile venture, merging technology and poetry.

January said...

Thanks for the tip on the podcast, Kelli. I think the David Rivard interview is posted there.

January said...

Catherine, an iPhone will change your life! I promise you.


Jessie Carty said...

i might have to get a copy for my itouch. I would be very interested to see how it interacts with my dock/stereo in the car which is where I listen to my iTouch.

i feel for the guys at Scarab with the issue on the audio. If I have an author reading for one of my YouTube lit vids I can not guarantee consistency because they may be on the other side of the country!

Catherine said...

Jan, I use my mobile phone (which I'm told is an antique) about twice a year to send a 20 cent text. To buy an iPhone here without an expensive plan attached was well over a thousand dollars last time I hear any pricing. Or you can get one for a couple of hundred, if you sign up to a plan that obliges you to pay a couple of thousand a year in phone bills. My numbers could be wrong, but whatever they are, it's a big chunk of money I could be spending on other things like poetry books that I might actually use :)

Catherine said...

(I'm not sure that all the downloads available in the US are available here anyway. I know that we have a different iTunes store with different content.)


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