Monday, October 29, 2007

Fun Amazon Tool

Scroll down through an Amazon listing for a book, and under "Inside this book" you can find a link for 'text stats'. It's got all sorts of fun stuff for a numbers geek like me, like percentage of words that are complex (e.g. three syllables or more), words per sentence, and words per dollar. A few famous selections:

War and Peace: 11% complex - 19.2 words per sentence (wps) - 52,888 words per dollar (wpd)
Oliver Twist: 9%, 19.3 wps, 25,204 wpd
Huck Finn: 3%, 19.1 wps, 22,006 wpd
Old Man and the Sea: 3%, 14.3 wps, 2,845 wpd
Billy Bathgate: 7%, 25.5 wps, 10,830 wpd
To Kill a Mockingbird: 8%, 12.6 wps, 3,405 wpd

This just confirms my conclusion that Billy Bathgate rambled endlessly. It's got sentences twice the length of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. For further comparison, take Hegel's 'Phenomenology of Spirit' (the densest book of arcane Germanic philoso-babble I could think of), which has 18% complex words and 25.1 words per sentence. If your sentences are just as long as Hegel's, you should look into hiring a good editor. I should also note that you get a much better deal on Hegel than on Billy Bathgate (16,470 words per dollar as compared to 10,830).

Of course, these are all pretty smarty-farty books. So I looked up a couple of books that Kir and I have read recently. 'Eat, Pray, Love' has 10% complex words and 16.9 words per sentence. 'Ender's Shadow' has 8% complex words and 11.6 words per sentence.

So here's a good question. Do books written primarily for guys (like Ender's Shadow, a science fiction novel) normally have less complexity in structure than books for women (like Eat, Pray, Love)?

No comments: