Literary Style by the Numbers

Have you ever noticed the link on’s book record pages called “Text Stats“? (it’s in the “Inside this Book” section – you have to scroll down a bit). Since Amazon has the full text of many books in electronic format, they can tally up some fun (and revealing) statistics about each book. Stuff like the number of characters, words, and sentences in the book, the complexity and readability of the text (using various metrics, like average words per sentence and syllables per word), and even words per dollar and words per ounce!

Author Steven Berlin Johnson (The Ghost Map, Everything Bad is Good For You, etc.) blogged recently about exploring this feature, comparing the statistics on his books with those of other authors, including Duke professor Fredric Jameson, and plotting them on a graph.

Read Johnson’s blog post for his observations on what these statistics reveal about different authors’ literary styles, and the comments below his blog post for other interpretations of this data, as well as how you can get these statistics on your own writing using word processing software.