In times of crazy image sharing we are constantly dealing with various kinds of infographics, charts or images that do nothing more than presenting sheer text on a colourful background. In this post I’d like to share something different: the most wonderful and highly creative book visualizations, the visual projects which present books in a surprisingly new light.
These visualizations are possible thanks to the internet and digitization. As soon as the book goes digital its entire content can be analysed like never before – not only manually, but also using special algorithms. It creates lots of new possibilities – much more data can be used for the visualization.
You’ll see below the greatest examples of data visualization applied to books, but not only that. Having unlimited access to images on the internet artists can create collages that represent the content of a single book or entire book genres. In the list below you’ll see such examples as well.
I’ll be updating this list once in a while, so please share in the comments the projects that should be added, thanks!
10 amazing book visualizations
Updated on 21.05.2013
1. Plot Lines
This is one of the most beautiful examples of literary visualizations I’ve ever seen – and it actually gives a very useful advice for every aspiring author. What’s the best recipe to make your novel a bestseller? Kill off your characters.
The infographic was developed by Joanna Kamradt and Christian Tate for the literary magazine “Delayed Gratification”. It analyses the plot of 13 novels that won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2011. Every single title includes death – the black part of the chart is overwhelmingly large.
2. Color signatures
Artist and designer Jaz Parkinson created a wonderful art project called “Colour Signatures”. Famous novels are presented in a form of posters/book covers, where colour spectrums are a reference to colours used in novels’ content.
Jaz explains more how the colours are found: “For example when it might say ‘yellow brick road,’ ‘yellow’ gets a tally, or when for example in The Road it says ‘dark ash covered everything’ (not an actual quote), that image evokes dark grey instantly in the mind, so dark grey gets a tally.”
3. Entire novels on single posters
The posters from Spineless Classics have nothing to do with data visualization, but they are an extremely inspiring way to show the content of the book. The entire text is being printed on a single sheet of paper.
These images are actually art prints on which, up close, you can read the full and complete text of your favourite classic work, right from “It was the best of times” to “a far, far greater thing”. The posters are printed on heavyweight paper in sharp, lightfast ink which will not fade.
4. Thumb print posters made from book cover spines
Cheryl Sorg creates and sells on Etsy beautiful large works of art, looking like colourful thumbs - and made from book cover spines.
The best thing is that the thumbprint can be personalized and made to order, so anyone who orders it will receive something absolutely unique – “a truly one-of-a-kind portrait that captures you, through the things you’ve read and loved, been transported and transformed by.”
The books to choose from are the greatest books of all time, listed by The New York Times, and you can select up to 50 favorite titles for the poster you order.
5. Top 10 bestsellers from 2000-2011
This awesome image includes every book from USA Today Top 10 weekly bestseller lists from 2000-2011. More than 6,000 book covers are shown, from 1,300 individual books.
The visualization was created by James R A Davenport, astronomer and social data analyst. He gathered all covers in a very smart way. Instead of doing it manually, he wrote a script that was grabbing the images every week (to be precise: 4 weeks per month, 48 weeks a year). USA Today does a great job of aggregating book sales information from a variety of sources, and their Top 10 list is very easy to use and analyse.
If the book covers stands for the mood of the book, this chart is a fantastic way to see how our reading preferences evolved over time. James explains: “You can see the “decay time” of books as they drift off the bestseller list. Color choices seem to have become more saturated since 2000, and Twilight (big black band) is the undisputed champ.”
The project has also another visualization, where all the covers are being put into a single frame, contrast and transparency are being adjusted to achieve the average book cover of the USA Today bestseller.
6. Thematic flow of a book
In an image above you’ see the visual representation of A Year and a Day, a romance based in medieval Scotland, written by the New York Times bestseller author Virginia Henley.
The visualization is the outcome of a very interesting initiative by BookLamp and the Book Genome Project, where they developed a special algorithm to analyze the topic and writing style of a book.
Such visualizations become a new, and very valuable, addition to book’s blurb, ratings and reviews. They fantastically describe (“display” would be a better word) what you can expect from a book, and how the plot evolves.
7. Color distribution of YA covers
YA writer Kate Hart wrote a great post uncovering YA covers. The post is accompanied by a series of images (one of them you see above, but there are other interesting ones to explore).
Kate gathered more than 900 books released in 2011 in United States. Then she researched the color distribution and demographic of these books.
8. Penguin sci-fi book covers over time
Arthur Buxton put together the most common colors of Penguin Publishing sci-fi books and arranged them over time. It’s interesting to see how iconic Penguin book cover art was evolving over time
Each timeline represents all the iterations of a cover in chronological order. Within each bar chart, length corresponds to the time in print and the dive most prominent colors are shown proportionally.
9. Connected words of 1984
“Connected” is a work of art by Greg Orrom Swan. The Bristol-based artist and designer connected the letters in the first two paragraphs of George Orwell’s 1984.
The image is a part of the larger art project called “Five Ways to Read 1984″.
10. Literary Organism
Stefanie Posavec created an astonishing Writing Without Words project that analyzes writing styles of famous authors between authors.
The visual you see above is “Literary Organism”. It analyses in detail Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It’s a simple organic structure that breaks down Part One of the book. It divides into chapters, chapters into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences, and sentences into words. Everything has its own color according to key themes in On the Road.
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