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Monday, September 26, 2011

3 Billion Words? Try 100 Billion or more

posted by Ken

Just two weeks ago, Smashwords announced they had published three billion words. How big is 3 billion? Think of it this way: if you started at 1 and counted each second until you got to 3 billion, you'd still be counting ninety years from now.

That's a lot of words.

What is Smashwords?

According to Mark Coker, Smashwords' founder, it's "an ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers, agents and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device."

Smashwords opened its doors in May of 2008. On October 7, 2009, they reported 150 million words published. One billion words was reached a year later. And seven months after that, that mark had  been doubled.

As of 4:30 this afternoon (PDT), the number of published words had grown to three billion, one hundred and forty-two million, or, more precisely, 3,141,924,287, meaning another 150 million words will have been added in just16 days.

Which made me wonder how explosive this growth in self-published words is and, if the trend continues, where that'll take us in the coming months.

Here's a graphical look at the numbers as they've been reported to date:

At this rate, Smashwords will reach four billion around the end of this year.

And when will they reach a hundred billion? Extrapolating out based on the current trend, just four years from now.

And a trillion? Well, not for another eleven years.

That's good. It gives me some time to catch up on my reading.


  1. My first reaction is that lost in those billion words is just a few really good novels that have been well edited and are worth reading. What goes up must come down, so this rush to publish anything by anybody in ebook form will eventually run its course but when? where? How much higher will the numbers go first? Whew...lots to wonder about.

  2. I hope you're right, Catherine, but I fear as more and more people "grow into" the new teechnology and accept it as a means for self-expression, not just as a meaningful way to communicate timeless information and stories, we'll see the market flood with "the noise of a billion voices."

    Just out of curiosity, I thought I'd see whether we were close to approaching some astronomical or theoretical limit, such as the number of atoms in the universe, and it's nowehere even close (~10e80 or 10 to the 80th power). Even the number of atoms on Earth is far, far greater (~3x10e50). That means the million monkeys typing on a million computers can keep their jobs for another million years. ;o)

  3. Reminds me of someone who spoke seventy languages but made little sense in any of them.

    How did we get into word-counting?

    Oh, those school papers, later- the pay-per-word articles, then editors’ suggestions…
    But who’s counting!