I bring you good news and bad news. And neither has anything to do with the hail that has been devastating vineyards in the Entre Deux Mers, in the Côte de Beaune and also in Champagne.
The good news is that the forthcoming seventh edition of The World Atlas of Wine is for the first time being published as a sumptuous iBook as well as in paper form. I must say I was blown away by how gorgeous it all looks on a tablet. You can zoom in to see every little detail on all our hundreds of maps so easily. And the pictures look fantastic. Oh, and the words aren't too shabby either.
The paper version of this completely revised, seventh edition of the wine reference classic will be published on 7 October, in both the UK and US, at £40 and $60 respectively. The iBook will also be available in October, priced at £19.99 in Apple's iTunes Store. Below is a spread from the iBook showing (to those of us who have seen the print version) just how different it is. Of course it is with the maps that interactivity really comes into play.
More good news is that our beloved and much-garlanded Wine Grapes is being made available in ebook form in late September. I had assumed that this would be a simple business of basically taking the text, already digitised, and slapping it into a large file for the Amazons of this world to do their worst with. I was wrong. Producing a version of Wine Grapes that will be reasonably easy to access, navigate and read on a computer screen, Kindle and iPad has been extraordinarily difficult and has involved probably thousands of person-hours. Kindle is fine for a black and white novel, continuous text that you hardly need to navigate. A reference book as complex as Wine Grapes with its different sections on 1,368 grape varieties, its tables, its illustrations, its introduction and its endmatter is something quite different. Not least because if you search for, say, Merlot, there is no way you can be taken exclusively to the Merlot entry. Your search will yield every single instance Merlot is mentioned. Grrrr. But once have done a few such searches, it is fairly easy to pick out the main entry from among the search results, and there are various other ways to go straight to an entry, eg from an alphabetical list of varieties or a list of varieties by letter. And in any one entry, all the references to other entries are set up as links, so it soon becomes easy to find your way round.
Anyway, after much work and gnashing of teeth, you can now pre-order Wine Grapes in wholly electronic, weightless Kindle form for £49.99. (The list price for the 7 lb paper tome is £120.) It will have everything but the pedigree diagrams, which are all available free on winegrapes.org.
But although we tried it, Kindle just didn't do justice to the classic, much-illustrated World Atlas of Wine. Can you imagine trying to put those intricate maps into black and white? Even Kindle Fire massacred them. Hence the iBook of the Atlas instead. (And if you query the difference in price between the two books, it has much to do with the total number of copies printed and expected to be sold.)
You can, however, watch a video of Hugh Johnson and a very cold-ridden me discussing the Atlas and, rather poignantly for me, I see it was filmed last February just before our house was broken into and our car and my gold jewelry, all mementos of my mother, grandmother and mother-in-law, stolen. At minute 1.38 you can see a detail of perhaps the most distinctive piece, my late mother's gold bangle, shaped like bamboo, with a safety chain (hollow laugh). Do please let me know via the Comments box below if by any chance you spot something like this. I might even buy it. (The original - see below - was presumably long since melted down.)
That's the bad news but we hope very much that you enjoy both new digital editions and the new paper edition of the seventh World Atlas of Wine. We pored over every contour and word.