Last Fall when Nathan Myhrvold published the print copy of Modernist Cuisine at Home ($140), he was quick to tell media that there was no plan for a digital version or app. "To do an app version of Modernist Cuisine would be a huge amount of work and a huge pain in the ass, basically — and a huge amount of money, and really a different team," he rationalized. It appeared that the case had closed, until the Modernist Cuisine team partnered with Inkling, a digital publisher that creates interactive ebooks.
Today marks the release of the Inkling edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home, available on the iPad and iPhone. The entire volume runs for $80, but for those hesitant to take the full plunge, it's only $5 per chapter. This is no PDF flip-through version of the book, folks. The ebook version just might exceed the print copy in terms of aesthetic and functionality. We're talking a clear, simplified design and and an intuitive user experience. If you're still on the fence as to whether or not to invest in the digital copy, here are 10 app features that might sway you and a few grievances to be aware of.
Intuitive, Fluid Design
The app's design requires almost no training to understand its key functions and organization. While iBooks require swiping horizontally to turn the page, the Modernist Cuisine app sets up the chapters so the user can scroll down the page organically, like with a news story found online. Swiping horizontally to the right returns the user to the list of contents to quickly navigate to different sections of the book. For those who own both an iPad and an iPhone, the designs differ slightly for the best experience on each screen, plus the app does sync across devices, so the reader can always pick up where he or she left off.
See nine more reasons why you need this app.
Bigger, Brighter Images
The crisp, hypermicro images make the Modernist Cuisine book such a coveted item. The app enables the user to click and zoom in on each and every photo to see the exquisite details. In addition, the app provides 359 brand-new high-res images that didn't make it into the original book. The app also embeds "interactive images" as designated by a plus sign. These images break down the parts of, for example, a pressure cooker. In the book, the reader has to match the number on the image with the corresponding paragraph number; this can can be confusing and time-consuming, especially when some images explain up to 16 parts! The app makes it effortless to navigate through these various parts.
Full-Length Recipe Variations
In the book version, each recipe notes a few brief variations. For example, the recipe for tomato leather has a brief explanation on how to create fruit leather and onion leather variations. The app offers the full recipes and photos for the variations. In total, the app features 260 brand-new recipes.
Some trickier techniques need to be shown through how-to videos. The app contains 37 embedded videos to showcase crucial modernist cooking techniques. The only complaint is that the videos cannot be accessed offline.
Rather than flipping to the glossary or index pages, the app inserts links called "poptips" that pop out to define key terms without moving to a new page. The app also link outs to any mentioned recipes and, most importantly, to product pages to easily shop for the recommended tools, equipment, and special ingredients.
The upper right-hand corner of the app features a magnifying-glass search icon, so the user can search by ingredients or pieces of equipment. The recipe results are then automatically organized into easy, intermediate, and advanced categories.
Specific pages are unlocked, so those techniques, images, and recipes can be shared with friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
The book uses an untraditional method of organizing recipes, which some may find confusing. The app groups the ingredients to be used just above each step. It's a very easy, thoughtful way to write a recipe for a smaller screen.
Adaptable Serving Sizes
This feature has the potential to be really cool and useful. The app permits the user to adjust the number of servings, thereby recalculating the ingredient measurements. The standard recipe contains both the weight and volume of the ingredients. This is extremely helpful to the American shopper adjusting to gram measurements. However, the app does not automatically calculate the volume amount, only the weight amount.
This is another feature that potentially needs some help. The app makes it easy to add the complete list of ingredients to a shopping list. The problem is that these ingredient measurements are again in grams, so rather than 1 tablespoon of garlic, the shopping list says 7.5 grams of garlic. Perhaps as the cook becomes more acclimated with gram measurements, this feature won't seem so problematic or difficult to gauge.