Edinburgh Book Trail – Exploring the literary heritage of a World Heritage City

General information

Domain: World heritage towns (literary heritage)
Title: Edinburgh Book Trail
Launch: 2013
Country: United Kingdom
Website: http://www.edinburghbooktrail.co.uk

Project focus

Edinburgh Book Trail is a mobile application that invites visitors to explore the rich literary heritage of Edinburgh. The city was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1995 and is also a UNESCO City of Literature. The application offers a variety of modes in which users can learn about the literary heritage, themed walking routes, a game-like mystery trail, looking up available information about literary places on a map, and an augmented reality feature. The application has been developed by two media companies and a local charity that promotes literature and literary tourism in Edinburgh and Scotland; also local writers were involved. The application has been launched at the 2013 Edinburgh International Book Festival.



The mobile application Edinburgh Book Trail has been created by purpleTV and Origin Partners under the purpleTrails brand, the first of a series of planned city exploration apps. purpleTV is an independent broadcasting and digital media company; Origin Partners is a creative business that develops mobile and web applications (especially for culture and leisure). The third cooperation partner, the City of Literature Trust, is an independent charity promoting literature and literary tourism in Edinburgh and Scotland. Furthermore local authors participated in the production through interviews on their views of the literary heritage of Edinburgh.

Financing / funding

The Edinburgh Book Trail application has been financed by purpleTV with support by Scottish Enterprise, an organisation promoting businesses in Scotland, and the City of Literature Trust. The newspaper The Guardian included the Edinburgh Book Trail as one of its top 20 mobile apps. Though it does not come for free, downloading it from Apple’s iTune store costs £5.99 (€7.25)

Content & IPR / licensing

The Edinburgh Book Trail app provides access to extensive information on places of literary significance in Edinburgh, ranging from writers’ birthplaces to locations featured in famous and less well known works. On points of interest the app serves a short description, an explanation of its significance, and available images and/or video clips. A special feature of the app is that six local authors (e.g. Christopher Brookmyre, Joan Lingard and Sara Sheridan) occasionally talk in short videos about the literary heritage of Edinburgh, the literary scene and favorite places, and their meaning for their own work. The application also includes a game-like mystery trail through which the user is accompanied by the crime author Pearl Litspur (Julia Sutherland).

The content development has been managed by purpleTV, with some support by the City of Literature Trust. The copyright of the content remains with purpleTV and the institutions that contributed content to the product (e.g. images).

Technologies used / innovative features

The Edinburgh Book Trail is an Apple iOS-based mobile app, i.e. it can be used with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The app invites users to explore the literary heritage of Edinburgh in different ways. Users can follow one of four themed walking routes, chose and try to complete the game-like trail, or create their own path by looking up available information about literary places on the move. As the application deploys location-based services technology, the user can see on a map the points of interest around his or her current location. The app offers also an augmented reality feature to find points of interest nearby, including points that are not related to literature.

In the Game Trail the user can follow Pearl Litspur trying to get back a stolen manuscript. To help her, the user must answer questions about Edinburgh’s literary history and solve some puzzles. Having completed the trail, the user can contribute an own short story and is added to the Book Trail Legacy Wall, thereby leaving his or her own “literary legacy”.

Target users

The Edinburgh Book Trail application is primarily targeted at domestic and international visitors. But it is also interesting for residents who do not know much about local writers and places of literary significance. Younger visitors and families might be delighted about the mystery trail. Certainly the mobile application adds to the experience of Edinburgh as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Lessons learned

Cooperation: In the development of the Edinburgh Book Trail, digital media businesses worked with an independent charity promoting literature and literary tourism, and involved local authors. The mobile application is a good example of how creative cooperation allows a new approach to communicating intangible cultural heritage.

Content: The content is organized to present literary heritage places and stories along suggested or users own trails through the city. Textual information is kept brief and the visual content adds a historic dimension to the places. By having local authors tell their personal experiences and views, users receive an insider perspective on the literary history of the city.

Technologies used / innovative features: The mobile application is a state-of-the-art product using location-based services technology. An innovative aspect is the variety of modes in which users can learn about the literary heritage (themed or own trail, game-like, and through augmented reality).

Sources and links