Choose Your Own Adventure

There is some really lovely stuff happening around the internet about books at the moment. Here’s just one thing I stumbled on that’s absolutely gorgeous.

One Book, Many Readings by Christian Swinehart

It’s a series of visualizations and commentary on what it means to move through a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and what sort of book you end up with if you just construct various scaffolding around places and events instead of providing a directed beginning-to-end narrative.

A graphic from Christian's site about choosing your own adventure books

This paragraph stuck out at me:

Just as looking at a film only in terms of its individual frames would be missing the point, considering the pages of a CYOA book in isolation ignores what makes the structure of these books special. As in all hypertext systems, pages make up the body of the organism, but it is the nervous system of connections between them that allows for emergent properties to develop.

It’s precisely that “nervous system” that we’ve been thinking about behind the scenes at Open Library. Admittedly, the catalog we have right now is pretty dry. Many of our records are all but empty and certainly don’t tell visitors much about the actual books they catalog. We’ve been trying to eke out the landscape of the catalog, because there’s certainly lots of data in it. I mean, in lieu of rich individual records, what can the aggregate tell us? Can we build pages around these aggregate views? What could we show on, say, a page that shows all the books we have about cheese? How would Open Library operate if there was no search box? Would it be navigable?

Many questions, as you can see. I wonder if we can make a Choose Your Own Catalog.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted November 17, 2009 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Interesting post. I missed those types of books by the way.

  2. Posted March 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed reading your interesting yet very informative insights. I just love reading anything about eye-catching adventure articles. Thank you for sharing and I am looking forward to reading your newest and most recent masterpieces!!! – Adventure Games

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