Books Become Bespoke
Speculation on generative text and bespoke reader experiences. For subscribers, an advance peek at my review of The Minthouse, a generative illustrated picture book.
One of the most widely used tech tools in the Web3 space, generative art, is best known for churning out cartoon animal NFTs. But my question for this week is, what if generative techniques were used to create generative books?
In visual art, the generative process scrambles layers of randomized traits to create thousands of unique images within a cohesive collection. These images have become popular as profile pictures because they express individuality and community membership at the same time.
Generative text could create a book release in which each individual book offers a unique reading experience with an instance of character, setting, and subplots that can be different every time. Paired with a smart contract, a book could allow its readers to choose among several characters and story paths and lock those particular choices to that particular book.
One early Web3 book project that promised generative text was Annie’s Bookshop. In multiple genres, sentences could be swapped in and out of the story from a bank of variants, creating thousands of possible books. The generative text was then to be incorporated into animated flipbooks with generative titles, cover designs, and backgrounds.
Annie’s project stalled and remains undelivered, but I’ve been rooting for its return.
Generative books did come a step closer to reality with the recent release of The Minthouse, a generative picture book written by Lorepunk.eth and illustrated by an as-yet anonymous artist.
The Minthouse represents a major artistic and technological achievement. The text isn’t generative, but the artwork is, with each copy featuring a main character whose unique set of visual traits are consistently expressed across multiple pages throughout the story.
The protagonist child, always named Robin, may be a boy or a girl, a human or a monkey, a cyclops or a biclops, or possibly a zombie. A variety of realistic skin tones are represented, as well as a few that only exist in fantasy realms.
Some Robins progress through their adventure in their pajamas. Others dress in leisure suits, coveralls, or astronaut suits.
Here are some examples.
Page backgrounds are also generative, creating a variety of settings and environments for our protagonist’s clean, messy, underwater, or treetop home.
I’ve written about this project before, but haven’t been able to view it for a proper review until now. How does this generative book function as a picture book? The collection is ungated, with all of its minted variants viewable from within the OpenSea marketplace, so you can judge for yourself.
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--The Mythoversal Cryptoversal
An advance peek at my review is included below for my paid-tier subscribers.