Running home from work the other day I began (as I often do these days) to wonder about the number of books in the world. Since the time when books were written by hand in the ancient civilisations, to the modern day where they are printed in their millions and digitally produced as e-books. I wondered how many books the entire population of the world would have each?
I imagined that we’d all end with quite a stack!
So looking around I found some very interesting resources.
Firstly on the number of books, I found information from our friends at Google! (You’ve got to love them, no you really do otherwise they’ll know) with this blog post Books of the world, stand up and be counted which tell you the number and how they went about working out how many books there are and how they defined a book. Now I know this isn’t individual copies, and this figure was in 2010 but it was still fascinating. So
Books = 129,864,880
People = 7,171,582,065
So books per person is
129,864,880 / 7,171,582,065 = 0.02 or about 1 book to every 50 people
Which explains my photo at the top, there are 50 diverse characters representing 50 people, and between them they would get one title.
So thinking about the number of copies of each original book, I think everyone would end up with a small stack. I think that a lot of them would contain religious texts like the Quran or the Bible, then Shakespeare, “The Natural History of Selbourne” – Gilbert White (just up the road from where I live this is one of the most popular books still in print since 1798), a Dan Brown and probably “Fifty Shades of Grey“. Now there’s a pile to have on your bedside table!
I am very surprised that in all time we haven’t produced more books, I expected the world to overrun with them! I wonder if there are more web pages than people? Perhaps another day.