House of Anansi Launches Massey Lectures App

This week, we have an interview with Erin Mallory, Manager, Cross Media Group at House of Anansi Press. Anansi has just launched an app for the Massey Lectures, and Erin agreed to share some of the background behind the app’s creation with us.


Why did you choose to create this app?

The Massey Lectures have been an ongoing annual project since 1961. Between the books, the audio recordings, and all the ancillary pieces, there has been an incredible wealth of content amassed over the years, but until now there was no way to collect it all in one place. An app seemed to be the perfect way to gather it all, and as the Massey world continues to grow, the app will continue to grow with it.

Did you encounter any technical issues when creating the app?

No, none!

No, of course we ran into some technical issues. When building an app, especially one as complex as this, there are bound to be some unexpected snafus. Originally, we had planned to launch this app last fall alongside the live broadcast of Lawrence Hill’s 2013 lectures, but the project needed more time than we had originally anticipated. Most of our delays were related to securing rights to the extra content rather than technical issues. Our development partners, Critical Mass, are such pros that the project went very smoothly. It took us just a couple iterations to get the app up and going.

How much does this app depart in format from print-book layout? What can users do with this app that they couldn’t do with a printed book?

When you’re reading the lectures in the app, the text is shown in a scrolling view, so right off the bat it completely breaks the printed page. Through the app, readers have access to ebook features like notes, search, and social sharing. The text is also augmented with images and illustrations. You can toggle between reading the complete text and the condensed radio lectures, and you can comment and have discussions about the text right inline.

How will you measure the success of the Massey Lectures app? 

By our measure, there are many stages of success for this project. We consider it a success already, in that we’ve passed from conception to creation with the cooperation of authors, developers, and designers, and with the support of the OMDC and our partners. As independent publishers, we look for ways to reflect Canada back to itself. The Massey Lectures app is a living archive of the Massey universe. Together, we’ve reimagined what used to be two separate properties.

We already know the power of the Massey Lectures as an educational tool, and the next level of success for us will be to watch how it is used in educational settings, and to see how the conversations hosted by the app evolve—how the users themselves make the app change and grow.

And the last measure of success has a long view. Through the process of developing the app, we are changing the way that the CBC and Anansi work together. In the future we look forward to seeing the conversations, discussion, and engagement fostered in the app start to shape the broadcast content surrounding the Massey Lectures. Then it all comes full-circle.