The news that Smashwords has, well, smashed through 10 billion words published set me to thinking about mass word production, also known as writing books, etc.
There are some famous authors such as Georges Simenon, who wrote the Maigret police series, and Erle Stanley Gardner, writer of the Perry Mason books, who have managed to bash out a million words a year consistently, plus folks such as English romancer Barbara Cartland who ripped the bodice off over 700 books and the great SF pioneer Isaac Asimov who conjured up more than 400 books across a range of fiction and non-fiction.
But they all look a bit sluggish when you consider the output of Didymus Chalkenteros, an Ancient Greek who wrote a staggering 3,500 books on all matter of subjects, including linguistics, a collection of Greek proverbs (that would be a great read), commentaries on other writers and treatises on agriculture. He would have been all over Amazon now.
An impeccable source (Wikpiedia actually) informs me that Didymus, who was a contemporary of Cicero, went by the unprepossessing nickname of Bronze Guts due to his incredible industry but he was also known as The Book Forgetter because he couldn’t remember what he had written in his previous books, so repeated and contradicted himself. I know the feeling, he needed an editor.
Even more amazingly, Didymus not only did not, apparently, have a computer (what were the Ancient Greeks thinking?) but he also wrote on papyrus, as a fragment of his work has been discovered. He must have got through an enormous amount of sedge reed.
The 10 billion words mark has come up for Smashwords only 18 months after the firm reached the 5 billion point, which took just over four years. These words have come from 87,000 writers around the world who have published 288,000 titles through Smashwords.
Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker says: “These writers are revolutionaries and saviours of the written word, even if they don’t view themselves as such. They’re leading the indie author movement.
Coker has worked out that if a person could type 30 words a minute, 24 hours per day, it would take an individual 5.6 million hours of writing, or about 630 years without a break, to type this many words
The average book at Smashwords is 34,722 words. This post is 392 words.