Monday, December 18, 2006

How Thick Do You Need To Be?

The Guardian has today printed a mini version of Schott's Almanac 2007 and I find myself reading this at "work". So far, two pieces of information have startled me. Firstly, tough guy rapper Busta Rhymes is really called Trevor Smith. Grr. But second of all, - that bastion of salesmanship that distributes anything and everything all around the world to the detriment of the independent retailer on the high street - has now included something called Text Stats on its website, to help potential readers decide how tricky a book will be for them to read.

These Text Stats includes a Fog Index: this tells you how many years of formal education you need to tackle a particular book (apparently 8.7 years to read Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" and a staggering 9.1 to read the loathsome "Da Vinci Code"). The stats also feature a count of complex words: this breaks down the percentage of words in the book that feature three of more syllables. Other categories are the average percentage of syllables per word; words per sentence; total characters in the entire book; total words in the entire book; and total sentences in the entire book.

Talk about spoon-feeding. I am horrified and genuinely aghast.

Just how stupid do you need to be? If you need this kind of information to help you decide whether or not you can read a book, quite frankly, you shouldn't be allowed to read books in the first place.

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