Magic Books

When I first saw Peter Greenaway’s film “Prospero’s Books” I was drawn to the innovative use of layering and multiple images to visualize the 24 books that made up the film’s arc. I was inspired. I wanted to explore ways to create interactive books with the richness and complexity as the books in the film… Books that felt handmade — full of magical, detailed, mysterious content.

So what about some examples of interesting digital books?

In 1997 Corbus released the CD-ROM Leonardo da Vinci. It contained images of da Vinci’s Codex Leicester with an innovative viewer that allowed readers to view Leonardo’s manuscript in 1) the original mirror-script Italian, 2) a reversed “normal” view, 3) a transcription of the original Italian, and 4) a modern English translation.

Leonardo da Vinci, Corbus

An early digital books was that I was semi-obsessed with was a 1990’s CD-ROM pop-up book of the alphabet from a [I think] Japanese design firm. On screen was an image of a 3D book. You could turn the page and a new crazy popup scene would unfold. One for each letter of the alphabet. I even think that the pages did crazy stuff — like the “r” page had a rocket ship that flew up off the page. (Unfortunately I can’t find an image of this project. I’m searching – and will post it when I do. It was either a CA or ID magazine award winner – in case anyone knows it.)

Moving from pure digital experiences to augmented reality, this book, “Le Monde des Montagnes – Give Me More”, by Camille Scherrer, is a beautiful vision of the semi-physical.

And lastly, the actual physical book, “Electronic Popables,” built by Jie Qi — a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab’s High-Low Tech Group. Full of wires and material magic to make the book come to life.