Our new book project, a collection of ideas for making the world a better place entitled The World Transformed, has been going by the nickname “the World’s Longest Book.” I want to be quick to point out that the proposed Abridged Edition of the The World Transformed will not be anything remotely approaching the world’s longest book. With 100 authors contributing not more than 1500 words each, the book will be hard pressed to make it even to 200,000 words (what with introductions, authors’ bios, etc.) and less than 500 pages.
At best you could describe a book with those characteristics as One of the World’s Many Somewhat Longish Books, or even the World’s Most Average Book. Either way, not something to get terribly excited about.
However, our plan is to give away at least 10,000 copies of the Abridged Edition, asking each recipient to submit a chapter to the full online version of the book and to invite others to do the same. If they all submit a chapter, or if some of them do, and invite others to do the same, who invite still others, and so on, and we end up with 10,000 chapters the full Online Edition of The World Transformed will be roughly 100 times as long as the Abridged Edition.
Would that make it the longest book in the world?
It would make the book significantly longer than the world’s longest novel, as certified by the good folks at Guiness. But our book is nonfiction and it seems likely that the real longest book in the world is probably a work of nonfiction. For example, I just learned today that the US tax code runs some 74,000 pages in length — no idea how many volumes that is. The 10,000-authored Online Edition of The World Transformed would, at most, only run about 50,000 pages — just two thirds as long as the tax code.
Of course, the plan is not to stop at 10,000 authors. 100,000 sounds a lot better, but not nearly as good as a million. A book with a million authors and a million chapters — now that’s a project worth getting excited about. A million authors will give us a book that will run somewhere between 3 and 5 million pages in length. Call it 50 times the length of the tax code.
At that point, I think we can safely say that we have produced the world’s longest book. Some will no doubt argue that it won’t be as long as Wikipedia, and that’s true. Even with a million chapters, The World Transformed will be only about a quarter the size of Wikipedia. But let’s not forget something very important, here.
Wikipedia is not a book.
The world Transformed, on the other hand, is a book, with a first chapter and a last chapter. It will be formatted such that you can download it to your favorite book-reading device, should you have the capacity on your device to support that (and the uncontrollable desire to do something so utterly pointless.) Or if you prefer to rock it old school, we’ll make it possible to do a one-off printing of all (approximately) 10,000 volumes of the finished book.