According to Nintendo and HarperCollins, this is a gateway to a more educated society. So can a bookshelf of digital books rammed into the Nintendo DS really be the answer? We get reading to find out.
The 100 Classic Book Collection is, as you might have guessed from the title, 100 books on a DS cartridge so you can turn your handheld console into an ebook all for around 20 quid. Load up the game/software and you are presented with a bookshelf of titles that you can scroll through with your stylus picking out the book you want to read just like you were at the library. Rather than just a list, the titles are written as if they were actually on a book spine and it's all very Nintendo "cutesy".
At first, as with all Nintendo games, you've got to wade through a series of instructions and tutorials. It's long, protracted and pointless. I mean you've got to choose a book and then turn some pages - how difficult can it be?
Well the answer is not at all, okay so there are some hidden elements that let you skip pages or choose a chapter, but it doesn't need umpteen tutorial pages to tell you how to do that.
Choosing a book is easy and they include classics from Dickens, Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hardy, Wilkie Collins, and Lewis Carroll. Of course there are some notable omissions, like Frankenstein, War and Peace, Lord of the Rings, and books from C. S. Lewis, but who are we to be greedy?
Each book as an intro to it setting the scene (although edition information isn't given) and a bit about the author so those not familiar with Charles Dickens or Jules Verne for example can learn more about them.
Holding the DS vertically pages are displayed both sides with a swipe of the stylus (or your finger) left to right to turn the page.
It's all fairly simple and you can get about reading the book you've chosen. Font sizes can be changed for those who can't be bothered to grab their glasses, but there are only two options: large and small.
Small gives you 12 lines to a page with around four words to a line, while large gives you 9 lines to a page with around two to three words on a line. Needless to say it makes books very long. 20,000 leagues under the sea in the large font is 4031 pages while something like Hamlet a mere 1127 pages, this makes for a very difficult read because you don't really get a sense of what's coming next as stage notes cover each page.
With so many pages to read you can add up to three bookmarks so you can save your place for later, and the software does remember where you are when you shut the console down.
Of course this being Nintendo, just allowing you to read your book in silence is a silly idea, and so for some bizarre reason you can choose your reading time to be accompanied by cheesy instrumental music - very random.
Anything that gets children into reading more is a good thing in my mind and the notion that you can cram 100 classics into your DS an even better one.
However where the DS suffers is that the screens (although two of them) are just too small to get a sense of where you are going in a book. It's nice to be able to see a block of text in front of you and take it in, and while the DS gives you the words to read there is no personality. You are so busy swiping your stylus that you loose the atmosphere.