I’ve been a fan of Massachusetts-based Barefoot Books since I discovered Bear in a Square when my son was born. Though my children have outgrown Bear and Cleo the Cat, now that they are in school I couldn’t wait to share Barefoot World Atlas, the publisher’s first iPad app, with them. Produced in collaboration with über-talented UK developer Touch Press, World Atlas is based on the book by Nick Crane and David Dean.
The app is part Google Earth and part World Almanac, with all the facts and figures presented with Barefoot’s trademark colorful style.
Users can navigate the globe as they wish, view regions of the globe, or tap on any feature or label that is of interest, tap either the country icon or the features icon to bring up an alphabetical list of each.
The entries for each country includes the local time, distance from one’s location, and even the weather for the capital city generated from Wolfram Alpha. As I type, it’s 43 degrees in Prague. The country entry also includes information on the land area, population, highest elevation, currency, transport per 1000 people, and average carbon emissions per head.
Tap any point of information, and an ordered list pops up that ranks the countries on that point. The country with the greatest number of cars per 1000 people isn’t the US. Any guesses? It’s Monaco at 863 per 1000. The US is second with 828 per 1000.
Every feature includes a descriptive paragraph that can be read aloud by tapping the speaker icon next to the text. Many of the features are digitally animated (e.g. Niagara Falls really moves, and sounds like a waterfall), and all of the features include a photograph of the image that compliments the designer’s rendering.
Users must zoom all the way out to reach the settings. I recommend turning the music off if using the app for a long period of time, but make sure you check it out before disabling it, because like everything else about this app, even the music changes as you move around the earth.
What I liked: Barefoot World Atlas is the best family-oriented coffee table book for iPad available in the App Store. I couldn’t stop reading.
What I didn’t like: The app is huge. The size is listed as 1.56 GB in iTunes but my iPad registers it as 1.7 GB. Either way it is too big to store on my device regularly. It would be nice to be able to choose between metric and English measurement units.
To buy or not to buy: Barefoot Books World Atlas deserves a place in any family’s digital library, as long as there is enough disk space on the iPad. This app isn’t just for geographiles — the app’s depth and breadth give it wide appeal.