Emoticons are fine as far as they go, but they do not express the whole range of human experience—our hopes, our dreams, our heartbreaks; our recycling, our maple leaves, our bananas. For that, you need emoji, which are Japanese emoticons for people with a lot of stuff to express (and maybe a lot of time on their hands).
In fact, emoji are now used by Japanese texters as a form of written language. This gave Fred Benenson an idea. The product manager at Creative Commons decided to have a book translated entirely into emoji, using the micro-contracting site Mechanical Turk for labor and the micro-funding site Kickstarter for scratch. But for a translation subject, he went decidedly macro: with enough backing, Benenson plans to produce a translation of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the English language’s premier text on recycling, maple leaves, and bananas.
Benenson estimates the cost of translating Melville’s 1851 novel at $3,500 and is currently seeking pledges of $5 to $200. If enough backers sign on by October 19, their donations will be accepted and work will proceed. In the end, supporters will receive benefits based on their investments. Five-dollar backers will get a PDF file of the final product, while $200 backers will receive a color, hardcover limited edition Emoji-Dick book, numbered and signed “by the author.” Wonder how Benenson is going to swing that one?
Margaret Guroff is the editor and publisher of Power Moby-Dick.