Two skilled climbers and talented writers, two distinctly different expeditions and one very big mountain comprise the key ingredients of the innovative "coffee tablet" book, Everest: High Expectations.
Written by Pat Morrow, who summitted Everest as a member of Canada's 1982 expedition two days after teammate Laurie Skreslet became the first Canadian to reach that pinnacle, and Sharon Wood, who became the first North American woman to reach that same point in 1986 with teammate Dwayne Congdon via a difficult new and never repeated route, the book itself represents several firsts.
In a narrative sense, it's the first publication to tell the story of how the preparation, unfolding tragedies and successes of the 1982 expedition spurred the particular planning, execution and triumph of the 1986 expedition.
But its production as an electronic book designed specifically to take advantage of the iPad's unique technological capabilities sets a new standard for illustrated books by combining the tradition of splendid coffee table books with multi-media innovation.
With 142 full-colour photographs illustrating its 140 pages, the book contains chapters by both authors. Each describes their personal histories and apprenticeships that led to their inclusion on their respective teams in an era when the only people climbing Everest were highly skilled climbers invited by their peers.
Subsequent chapters detail their respective climbs, and the book concludes with afterwards by each of them, in which Wood and Morrow share insightful comments on the mostly lamentable state of Everest as overcrowded and disrespected, with Morrow writing, "Adventure tourism has turned one of the world's great mountains into a crowded playground. Admission is costly, and sometimes fatal."
Both Morrow and Wood's writing styles are engaging and captivating as they describe the adventures and experiences that defined and celebrated that particular chapter of each of their life stories.
At the same time, the book's equal triumph is in its multi-media 3D presentation facilitated by the iPad's technology.
A flick of the finger on any photo expands the image to fill the screen. Numerous photos have two, three or as many as 10-full colour and sharply textured images accessed as interactive slide shows, each bearing captions that share additional details about the climbs' events, personalities and state of the mountain.
Not stopping at still photos, the hybrid book also incorporates video and audio footage from both the '82 and '86 expeditions, which literally bring the story to life — including breathless commentary by Skreslet as he films an avalanche thundering down a not-very-distant slope, adding an extra dimension of drama and depth to the story.
You can feel the cold in Skreslet's voice.
The book also includes links to external resources including a one-hour documentary, as well as electronic footnotes providing valuable information about key people and story elements that can be accessed later without interrupting the text.
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