Busey Ipsum illustration, 21 Flavors of Lorem Ipsum

21 Flavors of Lorem Ipsum: How I built a book as a website and minted it as an NFT on Cardano

I’ve been working on a way to create literary NFTs, or at least NFTs with significant literary components, with HTML and CSS. Basically to demonstrate that NFTs aren’t just JPGs. They can also be books, articles, short stories, screenplays, musical scores, etc.

So far, I’ve minted an article, a four-page magazine template, and an album for the 04 variants of Atmosfear Destroyed. On Thursday, I minted the prototype of a book of 83,012 words.

Its home page contains the intro. There are 21 chapters with illustrations, accessible by collapsible hamburger menu table of contents and back/next pagination at the end of each chapter.

My nefarious plan is to chart the technological landscape of this kind of publishing, learn the technological limitations, and make a set of blueprints for literary formats that work without overtaxing IPFS resources.

I want to be able to buy books on Cardano, dammit. I want to be able to make HTML books out of stories and pictures because it’s a fantastic medium for expression and, if you build it right, the browser reformats it as needed for the orientation and size of the screen.

Here are some screenshots of the book as it appears on a laptop screen.

cover: 21 Flavors of Lorem Ipsum (edited by chiarascuro)
Cover, desktop/tablet version
screenshot of table of contents navigation
Table of Contents navigation from the hamburger menu
screenshot of Busey Ipsum page with illustration of robot version of Gary Busey
Busey Ipsum page
screenshot of Zombie Ipsum page with illustration of a robot zombie eating a brain
Zombie Ipsum page

This project was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. Even though it was all Lorem Ipsum instead of real literature, it was still a lot of work and I learned so much about what it takes to put a book together.

conceptulalizing and editing

It started with the need to test a format for a manuscript with a substantial word count, but had no manuscript.

Placeholder text generators to the rescue! Lots of people have written their own variations on Lorem Ipsum, and some of them are worth noting. Why just make a book of Lorem Ipsum when it could be a Lorem Ipsum book? So I went through an iterative selection process and chose 21.

Ironically, I even had to line edit the placeholder text because a lot of the generators spit out huge paragraphs. So I had to break up the paragraphs and tried to do it in such a way to vary the paragraph lengths, because considerations for online reading are important. (Why it’s in dark mode as well.)

In a few cases there are spelling and punctuation errors I had to leave in because I needed to spend time doing design things. I only took out a critical punctuation error in one chapter because its repetition created a visual disturbance.

illustrations and HTML

I knew I wanted to have an illustration on each page, and prior build tests showed a peculiar limitation of five images per page. Six images break the page load even if they have a smaller cumulative file size than five larger images. (If anyone can explain this, I’d love to know why.)

So I tailored the article template I built for Blockchain for Noobs for the chapter template for this book. Then I had to create a cover and 21 illustrations. For now, most of them are text only.

Both images are in the same home.html document and use a CSS rule from the W3.CSS stylesheet to show the one that was designed for the proper screen size and hide the other. If you look at it in Pool.pm, you see both simply because the type of container used to display the content doesn’t allow the outbound links to work, including the external stylesheets. Only the CSS rules within the <head> element are applied.

Still working on a way around that and have people to talk to and more testing to do.

mint and metadata

The minting process was a big part of the test because of the number of separate pages that made up the site. I tried adding them all to the NFT metadata, but that quickly resulted in too many requests to the same IPFS folder, which produced an error loading the content. So I had to take most of them out.

I left the home page in with the cover image and the NFT wrapper image to avoid overloading the IPFS servers containing the folder with too many file requests. This means that the entire web site is not contained within the NFT itself, but rather floating like a balloon on IPFS connected to Cardano by the home/index page and the cover image linked inside the asset’s metadata on the blockchain.

changes for the second edition (edition #01)

The prototype has unfinished illustrations that I will complete for the second edition. There also seems to be an error somewhere in the pagination, so I’ll need to check every page and make sure all the links work.

I’ll also re-alphabetize the chapters. Almost halfway through filling in page templates, I decided on a last-minute switch and I was more concerned at the time with minting it and finding out if it would even work.

Now that I know it does work, I can make a better one and then get on with the next build I want to test.

Another book, but more akin to a textbook with 160k words and at least three times the number of images. Something that says, “Mint educational materials as fungible tokens so they can be freely distributed all over the network.”

Or, “Authors, come mint your books as NFTs on Cardano. You don’t have to settle on a clunky PDF with bad mobile UX.”

I keep hearing that no one reads anymore. But that’s not true. There just aren’t enough pieces of literature yet on the blockchain to give the bibliophiles a reason to be interested in NFTs.

Not enough yet to give authors a reason to consider NFTs a viable means of marketing and selling their work.

But that’s going to change.

Leave a Reply