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3 Books Written Entirely In Emojis — Can You Read Them? 🤔

Jeff Nowak
Jul 27, 2017 · 5 min read

We all know emojis, those little characters, and symbols that every millennial uses... They’ve made their way from casual use on forums and text messages to full blown mainstream on our iPhones. Emojis have reached wide spread use, there’s no hiding it. You can even become fluent in the world’s hottest digital language.

Origin Story

Originally meaning pictograph, the word emoji comes from Japanese e (絵, “picture”) + moji (文字, “character”). The resemblance to the English words emotion and emoticon is purely coincidental.

The first emoji was created in 1998 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita. He was part of the team working on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode mobile Internet platform. Kurita took inspiration from weather forecasts that used symbols to show weather, Chinese characters and street signs, and from manga that used stock symbols to express emotions, such as light bulbs signifying inspiration.

The emoji keyboard as we know it today first made its appearance on the iPhone with the release of iOS 2.2 in 2008. From there it spread to the United States and skyrocketed in popularity around 2010.

A big moment in Emoji history was 2015 when Oxford Dictionaries named 😂 (Face With Tears of Joy) it’s word of the year. With this type of recognition, it was only a matter of time before entire books were published in the digital language we all love.

The First Book

Try not to laugh…

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Emoji Dick by Fred Benenson

The first full book written in the modern emojis was Emoji Dick, this 736-page book is a direct translation of Herman Melville’s American classic Moby Dick. This modern master piece is the brain child of Fred Benenson, he opened up a Kickstarter for the project in 2009. The campaign raised nearly $3,500 from 83 backers. Today, a hard cover copy is going for $200.

Each of the book’s approximately 10,000 sentences has been translated three times by an Amazon Mechanical Turk worker. These results have been voted upon by another set of workers, and the most popular version of each sentence has been selected for inclusion in this book.

It took over eight hundred people approximately 3,795,980 seconds to create this book. Each worker was paid five cents per translation and two cents per vote per translation.

Get your copy of Emoji Dick, best of luck reading it beginning to end.

The Second Book

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The Second book written in characters similar to the emojis is Book from the Ground by Xu Bing.

Bing is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work has been shown and collected by museums and galleries including the National Art Museum of China; the British Museum, and much more.

Xu Bing spent seven years assembling materials, editing, and arranging thousands of pictograms to complete the book.

There is something incredible about this book, it can be universally understood. Xu Bing’s narrative, using an exclusively visual language, could be published anywhere, without translation. Anyone who has learned the icons and logos of emojis and modern life can understand it.

Get your copy of Book from the Ground.

The Third Book

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The third book is by a Wattpad user named YarnStore. It is an original story that hasn’t been published in a paper book, but I still consider it as one of the complete emoji publications. is a free platform for community members to share stories on. It also allows borrowing of ebooks for free. There seems to be a sizable user base, considering the activity on other accounts.

Attached is a screen shot of the beginning, try your best to read these 6 lines. If you can make it that far, I’m confident you’ll be able to read through it all.

This story goes one step further because people can leave comments on it. Many of the comments left are entirely in emojis, can you do the same?

You can read the full story here.

The Future of Emoji Books

If you didn’t notice, it takes A LOT of work to turn a book into an emoji master piece. An emoji book doesn’t seem like an achievable task without 5+ years of work or thousands of dollars and hundreds of translators.

However, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel if you’re looking to produce your own digital language novel. Sentiment analysis could be the answer to change this process forever.

Sentiment analysis and natural language processing have come along way over the past 10 years. Tools like Google translate are able to convert a sentence in Mandarin (Chinese) into English with up to 75-85% accuracy. For romantic languages to English, it becomes even more accurate, into 90%.

Some of you may have noticed that the iPhone keyboard has begun to offer suggestions for emojis. This is a direct result of natural language processing. The device is able to compare an English word to a symbol from the emoji library. For example, if I type, “good job” into a messenger, it will offer me 👍 as a possible option. Incredible, right?

With technology like this, Mechanical Turk will become obsolete. The only role humans will play is making sure the machine didn’t mess up on a translation. With instant translation, the awe factor may be taken out of emoji books, but we’ll be able to enjoy a larger amount than the 3 master pieces listed above.

Have a go at reading these and let me know what you think.


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