Book Unbound

Description (in English): 

Abstract: “Book Unbound” is a “collocational cybertext,” a self-assembling poetic collage that can be read in two ways: either automatically in the “bound” mode, or in an “unbound” mode that allows readers to extract and recycle words from its recombinant text stream. The present version is a HyperCard stack (Mac only, HyperCard program not required) available for downloading. –Editor

Post Modern Culture
Editor’s Note: “Book Unbound” is a HyperCard stack. The present version runs only on Apple Macintosh computers. Activate one of the links below to download a compressed, binary version of the stack (a self-extracting StuffIt archive). If you are using a correctly-configured graphical browser, the file should be converted and decompressed file automatically. If it does not, save the file, convert it with BinHex then double-click to launch the self-expanding archive. If you own a copy of HyperCard, download the stack only (120k). If you do not own HyperCard, download the stand-alone application (676k).

Author’s Remarks
“Book Unbound” is a literary object which, I believe, exemplifies certain potentialities of cybertext. 1

The first version of “Book Unbound” was produced in 1995 using HyperCard for the Apple Macintosh, although I had made earlier collocational pieces in 1993. From one point of view–especially when read in its “bound” mode–“Book Unbound” is simply a text generator. As such, it employs a fairly simple algorithm, which I call “collocational” but which might also be recognized as a simple stochastic transformation. The transformation can proceed beginning with any word of the given (or source) text. Any other word–occurring at any point in the given text–which follows (collocates with) the word last chosen may then follow it and so become in turn the current word. Clearly, in this type of transformation, at the very least, each pair of successive words are two-word segments of natural English. However, the text will wander within itself, potentially branching at any point when a word that is repeated in the given text is picked, and this will most often occur when common, grammatical words are encountered.


Cayley, John. Book Unbound: Indra’s Net VI. London: Wellsweep, 1995. Issued for Macintosh computers on 3.5" floppy disk.
———. "Book Unbound." Engaged, 1995, on CD-ROM.
———. "Book Unbound." Postmodern Culture 7, no. 3, Hypertext special issue (February, 1997).
———. "Book Unbound." In Dietsche Warande & Beaufort [Dwb], 4, on Electronic (Visual) Literature, edited by Eric Vos and Jan Baetens, On CD-ROM, 1999.
———. "Book Unbound." In The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, On CD-ROM. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003.

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Jill Walker Rettberg