Don’t Panic! Cult of Mac Gets the Background Behind the New Hitchhiker’s Guide App for iPhone and iPod touch



If you’re a Douglas Adams fan, there’s a point fairly early on during iPhone ownership where you realise that you’re holding in your hands the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is a nugget of information that hits you suddenly, rather like having your brains smashed out with a slice of lemon, wrapped around a large gold brick. Naysayers might disagree, but Apple’s handheld enables access to a mind-boggling array of information, via a friendly interface, even if it doesn’t have the words ‘don’t panic’ inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

It therefore only seems fitting that the Hitchhiker’s Guide books are finding a happy home on Apple’s device, the latest of which is Eoin Colfer’s sixth Hitchhiker’s Guide novel, And Another Thing... In the US App Store, the novel is available in extended form, bundling the digital and audio versions, video clips, “bits of brilliance from the first five books”, and a bunch of other extras (App Store link).

Mindy Stockfield, VP of Marketing & Digital Media for Hyperion Books and Stephen Saiz, Director, Marketing for Digital Publishing, Disney Interactive Studios, gave us the low-down on the thinking behind the interactive version, and Eoin Colfer added his thoughts on getting the guide on your iPhone.

The sixth instalment of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is available in app form.
The sixth instalment of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is available in app form.

Cult of Mac: Why did you decide to turn the new Hitchhiker’s Guide book into an app for iPhone?

Mindy Stockfield: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an eccentric, electronic guide that the characters use in their adventures; the iPhone seems to be that fictional creation come to life, a ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide for our time’. And Another Thing… was truly the perfect candidate for us to embrace and offer our readers the rich new ways there are to experience books today.

Stephen Saiz: In addition, the iPhone offers the extended reach of a current base of 50 million iPhone users who’ve downloaded over two billion apps. We knew that the iPhone would allow for a deeper experience beyond traditional text.

How did you approach creating the app, and ensure that it was more than just a book on a handheld device?

Mindy: We knew immediately the potential that the story could easily exist beyond the printed word. Our group brainstormed together to find content/components that leveraged the platform’s capabilities while expanding the experience with the storyline. We started with the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy’ as a background companion to the series that would re-introduce fans and attract new readers to the franchise. We then expanded this to include elements that enriched the reading experience.

What were the most important considerations when creating the app, and what were the biggest challenges?

Stephen: Most important was remaining loyal to the brand and maintaining authenticity for the established Hitchhiker’s fan base. From a challenge perspective, it was knowing that we could not completely implement some features in a way we felt people were used to, such as with the audiobook playback from within the app.

How does it feel to have the new Hitchhiker’s Guide book on a device that’s the rough modern equivalent to the device mentioned in DNA’s original book?

Eoin Colfer: I think it is a wonderful thing that you can get the guide on your iPhone. Douglas Adams was a huge Apple fan and is rumoured to have possessed one of the first Macs in Europe so he would have been thrilled and proud to see his legacy shining through on the touch screen. Also, I am a Mac man myself to the core and it gives me huge satisfaction to see the app sitting there for all to see. Especially my poor deluded PC friends.

How do you think iPod touch and iPhone fare against Kindle and real books?

Mindy: Right now they are all different experiences and still relevant experiences for the consumer. The consumer will ultimately decide which one suits their preference.

On the app itself, are updates on the way?

Stephen: Yes, even though bookmarking is a functional feature of the current application, we are working on a solution that will make the use of them easier and should satisfy our current and future customers. This fix will be live in a few weeks.