These words come from 87,000 writers from every corner of the globe who have gathered together to change the world of publishing one ebook at a time as manifested through their 288,000 titles at Smashwords.
These writers are revolutionaries and saviors of the written word, even if they don't view themselves as such. They're leading the indie author movement.
It took about 50 months for us to reach 5 billion words in July, 2012. It's taken only about 18 months more to add the second 5 Billion.
These 10 billion words represent creative expression unleashed. And they represent a lot more.
Here are some fun stats to help you grasp the enormity of this 10-billion-word collective achievement:
- If a person could type 30 words a minute, 24 hours per day, it would take a single 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
- Let's assume it takes the typical writer 9 months to write a book. The human heart beats 100,000 times per day. Each book was created with the life force of about 27 million heartbeats. The Smashwords catalog of 288,000 books represents about 7.8 billion heartbeats. Wow.
- Assuming 9 months to write a book, it would take a single individual 216,000 years to write this many words.
- Let's assume the average word in a sentence in print, including the space that follows it, is about 3/8 of an inch long (wild guess!). These words would stretch 312 million feet, or about 60,000 miles (96,000 kilometers), or long enough to wrap the earth almost 2 1/2 times.
Imagine the number of literary classics that have been birthed over the last few years - classics that might not be recognized as such for years to come.
I'm blown away by the scale of these numbers, and I'm humbled these 87,000 authors, small presses and literary agents have chosen to partner with Smashwords to help realize their books.
Is Self Publishing Good or Bad for the Culture of Books?
There's been a lot of hand wringing lately in some circles that self publishing is enabling a deluge of low-quality books. These people are missing the point of self publishing. Self publishing gives writers the freedom to decide when they'll graduate to become a published author. The gatekeepers are replaced by readers.
Gone is the myopic, suffocating filter of perceived commercial merit by which traditional publishers judge and reject books. I've got enormous respect for the people of publishing, but their business model, and their value system for books, is off-kilter and out of date. Prior to the rise of ebooks and the rise of indie authorship that ebooks enabled, the business of big publishing had become hazardous to books and book culture. Why? Because books cannot and should not be valued by sales or estimated sales alone. These smart, well-intentioned people in publishing were forced to play a blindfolded grim reaper by guessing which books readers didn't want to read. And then they threw the surviving spaghetti against the wall and let readers decide.
A reader can't accurately tell anyone what they really want to read until they read it, in the same same way I didn't know I wanted to listen to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit until I heard it. The best creative works break preexisting molds and surprise us.
The Travesty of Lost Culture
What about the spaghetti that never made it to market, and that would have stuck if only given the chance? What about the hundreds of thousands of fine traditionally published books that were forced out of print weeks after release, before they had a chance to be discovered by readers? Many of these books will never see the light of day again.
Consider the millions of writers who've had their dreams crushed over the last couple hundred years because their books were rejected when publishers didn't recognize their value. Virtually every literary classic today has a story of how it was almost not published. Imagine the thousands of literary classics - classics that would have surpassed anything ever published - that died with their authors, tossed out with the attic trash.
This tragedy no longer needs to be repeated, because the world of books is no longer constrained by a broken business model that is unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every author.
Self Publishing Energizes Book Culture, Lead to More Better Books
Writers recognize that success cannot be measured by dollars alone. There are spiritual and emotional pleasures to be had by self publishing that only writers can understand.
More better books is what matters most. More diversity. More choice. More freedom to publish and freedom to discover and enjoy.
Online book discovery systems are amazingly adept at burying the crud and surfacing the creme. The books that are truly horrible - books released by writers who failed to honor their reader with a quality read - quickly become invisible because readers will reject them today and in the future. The great books - the ones that take readers to emotionally satisfying extremes - will always find readers and bubble up to visibility, if not today, then next month or next year or next decade.
Great books are more discoverable today than ever before. The retailer discovery algorithms do an incredible job of capturing, measuring and leveraging the collective wisdom of readers as they browse, sample, purchase, read, review and talk about these books. As capable as the book discovery algorithms are today, they'll only grow smarter in the future.
Fear not, dear booklovers, self publishing will not only improve publishing, self publishing will save publishing.
Congrats to all Smashwords authors. You are improving the world of books one word and one indie ebook at a time. Thanks for allowing all of us on the Smashwords team to join you in this transformative adventure.