The world of digital arts is constantly introducing new ways to to tell a story, yet the traditional book hasn’t evolved much, at least until the release of The Pickle Index, a “short novel published in three simultaneous, stand-alone editions.” The brainchild of novelist Eli Horowitz, who’s also responsible for merging the boundaries of storytelling and interactive experiences with his books The Silent World and The New World, The Pickle Index is an immersive, serialized app for iPhones and iPads that’s also offered as a slipcased double-hardcover and a paperback that takes traditional storytelling into the 21st century.
The story itself goes like this: “In a glum nation ruled by a stylish dictator, all citizens are required by law to participate in the Pickle Index, a fermentation-based recipe exchange. From within this network, an incompetent circus attempts an unlikely uprising. Thrills, chills, spills, & dills!” Futuristic? Yes. But what sets this novel apart is the way readers can choose which experience they want to have.
For those dipping their toe into the world of immersive novels, the real-time progress of the app as it tells the story over 10 days is a refreshingly unique approach to a “book.” Users can dial up or dial down the amount of interaction they take on within the app, but no matter what level you choose, it blends form and content beautifully. Although the stories are similar at the core, all three mediums vary depending on the format in order to “take advantage of the specific advantages and limitations of each format, rather than attempt to simulate an identical experience across all media.” The hardcover is testament to this approach, boasting an “unprecedented feat of interactive book design” with full-spread illustrations from each book that come together to create larger, unified visuals.
The Pickle Index shows us that the landscape of storytelling is evolving, and although some readers may not be ready to step outside of the traditional paper or Kindle experience, the opportunities to reach beyond the written word and craft an entire interactive journey are exciting—and this is just beginning.