If you’re reading this, we know you love books! (Thank you for being here, by the way.) But how much do you really know about the medium of books? Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly love them more, we thought we’d give you even more reasons to #iheartbooks.
1. The first eBook is 50 years old
It’s hard to believe that eBooks have been around since 1971. Well, they have and they haven’t; meaning that the first eBook was actually the Declaration of Independence loaded onto the computer network of the University of Illinois as part of Project Gutenburg.
It may not have been the eBook we know and love today, but Project Gutenburg was started in 1971 with the purpose of digitizing and collecting literary works in order to make them accessible to large numbers of readers…for free!
Related: How to Get Free eBooks
2. Books are traditionally only published in paperback after interest in the hardback dies down
Speaking of digital books, you may wonder about the thought process behind publishing the paper versions. It has long been a tradition to publish a book first in hardback. Apparently, the form’s big size and heftiness conveys that the book is seriously good and will be seen on tables and displays in stores easily.
And what about the cousin to hardbacks? There’s actually no set time for a book to go into paperback edition. If a book is doing well enough that people will still pay for the hardback, then the printing will stay in that form longer than the average six to twelve month move to paperback. For instance, the blockbuster hit Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens came out August 14, 2018. This mysterious tale of murder and a misunderstood marsh girl only came out in paperback on March 30, 2021, nearly three years after its release.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Publishers who want to immediately set a lower price point for a title may choose to skip a hardcover edition.
3. An average novel is between 50,000 and 120,000 words
As readers, we tend to think of a book’s length in terms of how many pages it is. For a writer, the length is in word count. Many authors use the metric of how many words per day they write to see if they are on track. On average, a novel can be written in six to twelve months. This is just the down and dirty of getting it on paper though, without edits.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao took Junot Diaz 10 years to write, ironically. Diaz ran into difficulty with continuing the story and took a break before ultimately returning to it and finishing. (Another fun fact: writers have differing opinions on if writer’s block is real.) Oh, this book about a Dominican-American boy growing into himself in the midst of a family curse is 139,250 words or 340 pages in hardcover.
4. The larva of a wood-boring beetle is an endearing name for voracious readers
Don’t take offense. The term "bookworm" is born from actual creatures that feed off of the paper and glue binding of books. There are several different types of insects that find books as amazing as we humans do. The term became popular in 1500s Britain and was actually a negative commentary on a person.
Elizabethan times were tough for lovers of books, and people in general. If you’re interested in learning more about that time, read A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, which introduces us to a witch who doesn’t know she’s a witch (kind of like an adult version of Harry Potter with time travel and vampires thrown in).
5. There are approximately 2.6 million libraries in the world
Sometimes I think that I alone am housing a great percentage of the world’s books when I take a look around my house. In actuality, there are many houses for books all around the world, according to the organization International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. This doesn’t even include all of those cute little lending libraries you see in neighborhoods and around towns.
The U.S. Library of Congress was founded in 1800 and is the largest library in the world. Speaking of other amazing things going on in the 1800s, What Regency Women Did for Us by Rachel Knowles chronicles real life pioneering women establishing or dismantling important institutions or norms of the time. Check it out! (See what I did there?)
6. Pseudonyms are more than patriarchy busting
You probably already know that in order to get published in the past, many women writers had to protect their identities by using pseudonyms. But did you know that using a fake name also helped marginalized authors get published in the first place or authors already known for a certain genre of writing get published in another? How? The veil of a pseudonym can erase any preconceptions that a publishing house, or the public, might have about the ethnicity, gender or celebrity of an author’s name.
These days many men actually publish with gender neutral names to win over the predominantly female book buying market. Take J. Sanclemente, author of You Have to Tell, a thriller about a murdered journalist and the lengths people will go to get content on (and off) social media. His first name is José, but using the J makes his identity more mysterious.
7. Books beget books
Many authors knew early on the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But what about regular book fans who find themselves writing because they were inspired by a specific book or book series? It’s called fanfiction and usually, it’s just a cool way to extend the world/feeling created by another author.
Sometimes though, these fans become famous authors themselves. By now, you probably know the story of how author EL James was such a big fan of the Twilight series that she went on to write the blockbuster series that also made it to the theaters known as Fifty Shades of Grey.
And if you wanna go completely Meta, check out Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl where she writes about a fictional author of fanfiction who is inspired by the real-life Rowell and her real-life books. Confused, yet?
8. Banned Books Week is a thing
It should come as no surprise that since books are a medium to share thoughts, ideas and information, they can be viewed as a threat to some and have been censored through the ages. This can be on the grounds of objections to the content, the author, and more. And while Banned Books Week may sound like it’s a week to ban books, it’s actually an annual celebration of all books and the refusal to allow any voices to be silenced.
Banned Books Week usually occurs at the end of September/beginning of October. And if you want to celebrate any time, you can read Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides about a man coming to grips with his family’s past including his sister’s death by suicide, which got the book banned in West Virginia and Texas.
9. Fairy Tales are for grown ups
Don’t tell Disney, but fairy tales aren’t actually for the kids. These tales have origins in the oral stories of thousands of years ago. People would share stories, or even act them out with their own variations thrown in, to either entertain or inform. The creating of tales even became a famous parlor game in the 17th century and eventually, writers like the Brothers Grimm began to document the stories in books.
These tales from all over the world do have universal themes, but are often rather gruesome and contain harsh lessons. Over the years, fairy tales have come to be more associated with children and “happily ever after” than as the cautionary tales of old. Even now, fairy tales are getting revamped.
Want a fresh take on a fantasy world? The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert follows Alice into a world that she thought her grandmother had made up to sell books but it turns out it, and the creatures in it, are very real.
10. Movies and streaming services need good books
Whether you prefer a book or its adaptation is a discussion for another time, but the fact is that without books, the film and tv streaming industries would be without a major source of content. In fact, Dartmouth Library has quoted that up to 51% of films are based on book adaptations and these films tend to bring in more money than non-adaptations.
It’s difficult to know the percentage of books made into film or series. In fact, some books get multiple shots at adaptations. Take Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, for instance. There are at least 13 different versions of the book made into movies, ballet, opera, theater and a mini-series. Don’t be surprised when the novel you read last year finds its way to the Netflix "Coming Soon" queue.
Now you know!
Featured photo: Ed Robertson / Unsplash