I like to make spreadsheets to plan things out. I've already discussed the spreadsheets I use to track my agent queries and review requests. Similarly, I'm a slave to my Pokemon Go spreadsheet (it lets me know which Pokemon should be evolved, which need to be walked, and so forth.)
A few weeks ago I decided I needed to get a head up on my Goodreads reading challenge for 2018. It's been five years since the Hundie Challenge when I read the Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (according to The Modern Library.)
The last few years I said fuck it and read at the rate and pace I felt like. Needless to say, I did not read much. So this year I decided a challenge might make a dent in my TBR pile and make me feel better about how illiterate I am. But by the end of February I was already way, way behind. So I decided to make a spreadsheet of the Kindle books I own and sort them by length. I figured I could knock out a bunch of the shorter books, thus seriously making inroads into the length of my TBR pile, if not the volume necessarily.
As I was attempting to sort my Kindle TBR pile by length, I noticed something. I had no idea how to sort it by length. I've explained in the past how books are measured by word length, because 500 words could be a 30-page children's book or a single page of an unillustrated adult novel. Depending on formatting, books of the same length in words can vary by sometimes hundreds of pages. I knew this, but I figured it wouldn't be terribly hard for someone to determine the length of his Kindle books.
Boy was I wrong.
Let's take a look at a short sample of my spreadsheet, shall we?
|THE ELDER UNEARTHED||85|
|THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH ZOMBIES||97|
|KINGDOM OF SHADOWS||99|
|THE KERES STRAIN||155|
In this instance I've sorted the TBR list by page length, per Amazon. But I know pages are based on formatting, so I squinted and took at look at the Kindle "location" length. Here's what I came up with:
|FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS||650||255|
|KINGDOM OF SHADOWS||1462||99|
|LUST, MONEY & MURDER||2323||278|
|THE HORROR SQUAD||2441||278|
|HE LEFT HER AT THE ALTAR||2508||168|
Hmm. Not quite the same is it? So then I thought to myself, perhaps there is some kind of ratio between location and page length. Once I had that ratio I could simply multiply that number by the page length and get the actual lengths of every book in my pile. But a quick attempt to do so determined that was not the case:
|FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS||650||255||2.55|
|KINGDOM OF SHADOWS||1462||99||14.77|
|LUST, MONEY & MURDER||2323||278||8.36|
|THE HORROR SQUAD - 2441||2441||278||8.78|
|HE LEFT HER AT THE ALTAR||2508||168||14.93|
The ratios ranged from 2.5 to 23.8. Basically, that's useless. Even an average of the ratios would be useless. So here I had been thinking that Kindle "locations" were independent of formatting - but they are not. But I was not out of data yet. So next I decided to sort by the length of time it takes to read. Surely that would get me to the center of this Tootsie Pop.
|Title||Length in minutes||Location||PP|
|FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS||30||650||255|
|HE LEFT HER AT THE ALTAR||116||2508||168|
|KINGDOM OF SHADOWS||117||1462||99|
|THE ELDER UNEARTHED||123||85|
|THE MYTH OF FALLING||146||188|
|LUST, MONEY & MURDER||164||2323||278|
Um...no. That's when I realized that the length of time it takes to read a Kindle book is not some independent, objective time. It must be based on an average of the length of time it took every reader which Kindle collected information on to read. So very popular books would have different average read lengths from very unpopular books. And books which are easy to read would have very different lengths from denser books.
At this point I was starting to tear my hair out. As you can see, a few of the regular suspects kept cropping up, so I could guess that CUT CORNERS, for instance, was going to be a quick read no matter what. But otherwise the books in my TBR pile varied so much by page length, time to read, and location length, that I had no idea what the hell constituted "short" anymore.
But one more vital statistic called to me. I noticed that ever kindle book has a series of dots under it. And I guessed that those dots represented content. FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS, for instance, is a somewhat lengthy book at 255 pp, but it is illustrated, so its actual content of words is very small. Pulling out a magnifying glass I set to the laborious task (yes, as I stated at the outset, I am a nerd) of counting dots. And here's what I came up with:
|FANTASTIC EARTH DESTROYER ULTRA PLUS||650||255||3|
|THE ELDER UNEARTHED||85||4|
|KINGDOM OF SHADOWS||1462||99||4|
|THE MYTH OF FALLING||188||6|
Now that looks a bit more like it.
So what's the moral of this story? I don't fucking know. I just thought it might be interesting to look at how hard it is to determine the actual lengths of books, particularly on Kindle. Remember the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover?" Similarly, I suppose we should not judge a book by its width.