April 11, 2013 § 1 Comment
When I look for detective fiction in crime sections in charity shops, I glance at the spines of books. If the spine is thick, I conclude that the book has been printed recently and it will not be one of the classic crime titles which I am looking for. The modern printed book is a chunky affair. Often spines impress themselves on my vision as being an inch thick and more.
The following two paperbacks have a cover size of about 10.8 cm x 17.7 cm (4 1/4 x 7 inches)
Harlan Coben’s Tell No One (Orion 2001) seems to be a representative size for a current best seller (crime fiction) and Edward Grierson’s Reputation for a Song (Penguin 1955) for a crime novel of its time.
Tell No One (210g) has a total word count of 80,272 (232 words per page) and is 346 pages long.
Reputation for a Song (110g) has a total word count of 104,808 (397 words per page) and is 246 pages long.
Tell No One is chunky not because its story is longer than that of Reputation for a Song’s but because fewer words are printed per page. So a thick-spined book will often contain significantly less words than a slim-spined book.
If there is no need for the book to be chunky, why are they made so? Have publishers concluded that people will buy chunky books sooner than slim ones? Do readers feel they are getting more value for money? Do they feel a glow of pride when reading a thick book? Do they believe they are reading hundreds of thousands of words? And do they scorn those who seem content with their paltry thin-spined book?
Perhaps that is nonsense. Why then are books so chunky?
* I make no claims for absolute accuracy but for aimed-at accuracy. To get an average word count, three pages of full text were counted and then divided by three.
April 9, 2013 § 3 Comments
Consciousness about respecting the environment often seems to be detached from any true principle of thrift. Although more books are printed on papers that come from sustainable forests, such books seem to be getting bigger. Are stories getting longer?
A look at four books which have a cover size of approximately 51/2 x 8 inches*:
1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Penguin Classics 1995)
Weight: 250g; Total word count: 135,040; and story pages 320 (422 words per page)
2. The Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller (Granta Books 1999)
Weight 250g; Total word count: 73,890; and story pages 242 (305 words per page)
3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Vintage 2003); paper from sustainable forests;
Weight: 270g; Total word count: 128,152; and story pages 386 (332 words per page)
4. Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada (Penguin 2009); Forest Stewardship Council Certification;
Weight 430g; Word count: 202,270; and story pages 565 (358 words a page)
If the following three books had been typeset as Sense & Sensibility:
Alone in Berlin 479 pages, instead of 565
The Land of Green Plums 176 pages, instead of 242
Norwegian Woods 289 pages, instead of 386
To get an average word count, three pages of full text were counted and then divided by three. In all cases, the total word count will exceed the actual word count. However, the discrepancy will be greater with The Land of Green Plums, as many paragraphs were preceded by a number of lines of blank space.
Both Sense & Sensibility and Alone in Berlin had a number of explanatory pages. These additional pages were not included in the story word count but do add to the weight of the book.
Although a domestic weighing scale is not 100% accurate, we may still safely conclude that too much paper is being used to produce books.
*I tend to think in the imperial system but find weights easier to write in the metric.