Zyra's website //// Bookshops //// Books //// What are BYTES? //// Site Index


Take a book, any book. Now let's get a good idea about how many characters or bytes there are in the book. This can be done quite easily without doing the obvious but laborious method of picking carefully through the entire book and painstakingly counting all the characters. That would take a day or two and would be very boring, so here's an easier and more cunning method.

The method relies on it not being vitally important to know absolutely the precise answer, but within 5% or 10% either way will do.

The method:

1. Find out how many pages there are in the book. This is generally easy as the pages are numbered. Include all pages except for the few at the beginning and the end where there's not much print, and deduct a few to take account of any picture pages.

2. Find out how many lines there on an a typical page. To do this, pick ten average-looking pages at random and count how many lines there are on each page. Add these together and divide by ten. This is an AVERAGE number of lines per page.

3. Find out about how many characters there are on a line. Pick ten lines at random from random places in the book. Count how many characters there are on each line, add them up, and then divide the total by ten. (Spaces, numbers, letters, and symbols all count). the result is the average number of characters per line.

4. Multiply the result from (1) by the result from (2) and then multiply that by the result from (3).

The answer should be about right, not 100% accurate, but good enough for most purposes. For example, a novel might be half to one million characters (bytes), and a weighty tome might be five or six megabytes. How about the phone book? How big is that?

This experiment is an example of scientific statistical estimation. Also see explanation of bytes and kilobytes etc.

If you wanted to find out how many WORDS there were in the book rather than how many bytes, adapt stage 3 in the method by counting words rather than characters and spaces.

Incidentally, by a similar method it's possible to find out about how thick a page of a book is, without having to use a super sensitive accurate micrometer gauge. Just measure how thick the entire book is in inches or centimetres and then divide by the number of pages, and remember to divide by two, as the page numbers are on both sides of the sheet!

It goes without saying that you can buy books from Amazon and other book shops, and I'd guess you've already got some books, but it's always worth considering you could add to that!

This page is part of Zyra's website which is worth knowing about, as there are many interesting pages like this.