Lifted

Lifted is a Swedish heist story from the relatively new multimedia, long-form, non-fiction digital publisher The Atavist. Essentially, it’s a text story – longer than a typical magazine article, but shorter than a book – about the robbery of the Stockholm cash depot, with multimedia extras that the user can choose to access or completely ignore.

How It Works

Lifted starts with a prologue video, taken from the security cameras at the cash depot as it is being robbed. The user sees the helicopter land on the roof, men get out, enter the depot brandishing automatic weapons, fill their bags with cash, and leave, all set to music that sounds like it was taken from a heist movie. After that comes 16 text chapters about the lead up to the robbery, its execution, and the aftermath. The style of the text is similar to that of a magazine article or book, only instead of flipping the pages, the user swipes from one page to the next on their iPad.

The multimedia elements are kept in the background. Certain words in the text are highlighted like hyperlinks. Tapping on the word activates a pop up with extra information. Small icons next to these words signal to the user the type of information available: a clock brings up a timeline of events; a camera brings up a photograph; a globe brings up a Google map of Sweden with important locations marked with pins; a paper brings up extra text information; a torso brings up a short character bio with picture.

There is also the option to turn Lifted into an audio book with the tap of an icon. The text slow scrolls down to keep up with the narration.

What Works, What Doesn’t

The text here is obviously what’s important. The user could happily read the entire thing without bothering with any of the multimedia and they would never know there was something missing. Indeed, the in-text links can be turned off, making Lifted no different from a traditional ebook.

Unfortunately, with the multimedia playing second fiddle, its utility suffers. There are times when the pop ups are quite useful and add to the story. The character bios are great for keeping track of the Swedish names. But a Google map of Sweden doesn’t mean much to a user who’s never been there. Does the user really need to know exactly where the rendezvous point for the robbers was relative to the cash depot?

That said, the video prologue that uses actual images from the robbery is an excellent way to set the scene. It demands questions from the user: Who are these masked men carrying machine guns? What are they robbing? How much did they steal? Did they get away with it? It’s genuinely exciting.

And the overall design is very clean. Each chapter is a single page of text that the user scrolls down to read. Swiping to the left or right allows the user to move between chapters with the occasional full-screen picture placed in between. A menu with every page on it allows the user to easily navigate between chapters. In this way, Lifted does show off how well the iPad can handle longer texts compared to a computer.

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