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§25.4. The Library Card

Bibliographic data is useful for two reasons. Firstly, it enables the equivalent of a title page to be printed - traditionally called the "banner" - at the start of play; secondly, Inform uses it to generate the equivalent of a library card for the work, which can be used by other programs to help organise, sort and classify interactive fiction. If the card is given to any other program on any other machine (or an Internet-based archive) then, in principle, that system can know about our work of fiction without a human librarian having to get hold of a copy, play it and laboriously copy out the details.

The "library card" is not of course a physical card, but a small "metadata" file which could potentially be transmitted quickly across the Internet. It contains no personal data other than what you choose to put on it, using the sentences documented in this chapter: it does not, for instance, identify your computer or IP address. In any case Inform does not send it anywhere, but merely keeps an up-to-date copy within the project, and includes it when making a release copy of the work. You can always see (a representation of) the current library card for a project in the Contents index.

Authors are asked to play fair, in return, by writing sensible and useful bibliographic information for any work which is likely to circulate to other people; by being honest (writing under a pseudonym is fine, but not impersonating other people); and by conforming to standard practice.

The Settings panel of each project contains a tick-box called "Bind up into a Blorb archive on release", and by default this is ticked. "Blorb" is a nonsense word from a popular early 1980s work of IF called "Enchanter", where it was the name of a magic spell whose purpose was to "safely protect a small object as though in a strong box". In the late 1990s, the name was borrowed for a standard format for what might be called the wrapping and packaging of IF. A typical Blorb archive produced by Inform contains the "story file" - the actual program for the story - together with its library card and cover art.

Modern IF interpreters such as Zoom for Mac OS X and Unix, and Windows Frotz, can play blorb archives directly, and the authors of Inform hope to make this the normal practice in future. Still, some interpreters cannot read blorbs directly and have to be given the actual story file: so by unchecking the above tick-box, we can insist that Inform creates only that. The disadvantage with this, of course, is that the library card (with all its bibliographic data) and any cover art is lost in the process.

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