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How the internet is changing language

‘To Google’ has become a universally understood verb and many countries are developing their own internet slang. But is the web changing language and is everyone up to speed?

Child's building blocks

The web is a hub of neologisms

In April 2010 the informal online banter of the internet-savvy collided with the traditional and austere language of the court room.

Christopher Poole, founder of anarchic image message board 4Chan, had been called to testify during the trial of the man accused of hacking into US politician Sarah Palin’s e-mail account.

During the questioning he was asked to define a catalogue of internet slang that would be familiar to many online, but which was seemingly lost on the lawyers.

At one point during the exchange, Mr Poole was asked to define "rickrolling".

"Rickroll is a meme or internet kind of trend that started on 4chan where users – it’s basically a bait and switch. Users link you to a video of Rick Astley performing Never Gonna Give You Up," said Mr Poole.

"And the term "rickroll" – you said it tries to make people go to a site where they think it is going be one thing, but it is a video of Rick Astley, right?," asked the lawyer.


"He was some kind of singer?"


"It’s a joke?"


The internet prank was just one of several terms including "lurker", "troll" and "caps" that Mr Poole was asked to explain to a seemingly baffled court.

But that is hardly a surprise, according to David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, who says that new colloquialisms spread like wildfire amongst groups on the net.

"The internet is an amazing medium for languages," he told BBC News.

"Language itself changes slowly but the internet has speeded up the process of those changes so you notice them more quickly."

People using word play to form groups and impress their peers is a fairly traditional activity, he added.

"It’s like any badge of ability, if you go to a local skatepark you see kids whose expertise is making a skateboard do wonderful things.

"Online you show how brilliant you are by manipulating the language of the internet."

Super slang

One example of this is evident in Ukraine, where a written variation of the national tongue has sprung up on internet blogs and message boards called "padronkavskiy zhargon" – in which words are spelled out phonetically.

It is often used to voice disapproval or anger towards another commentator, says Svitlana Pyrkalo, a producer at the BBC World Service Ukrainian Service.

Rick Astley

Rickrolling is the redirection of a website address to a video of popstar Rick Astley from 1987

"Computer slang is developing pretty fast in Ukraine," she said.

The Mac and Linux communities even have their own word for people who prefer Microsoft Windows – віндузятники (vinduzyatnyky literally means "Windowers" but the "nyky" ending makes it derogatory).

"There are some original words with an unmistakably Ukrainian flavour," said Ms Pyrkalo.

The dreaded force-quit process of pressing ‘Control, Alt, Delete’ is known as Дуля (dulya).

"A dulya is an old-fashioned Ukrainian gesture using two fingers and a thumb – something similar to giving a finger in Anglo-Saxon cultures," she said.

"And you need three fingers to press the buttons. So it’s like telling somebody (a computer in this case) to get lost."

Word play

For English speakers there are cult websites devoted to cult dialects – "LOLcat" – a phonetic and deliberately grammatically incorrect caption that accompanies a picture of a cat, and "Leetspeak" in which some letters are replaced by numbers which stem from programming code.

lolcat LOLcats have become a 21st Century internet phenomenon

"There are about a dozen of these games cooked up by a crowd of geeks who, like anybody, play language games," said Professor Crystal.

"They are all clever little developments used by a very small number of people – thousands rather than millions. They are fashionable at the moment but will they be around in 50 years’ time? I would be very surprised."

For him, the efforts of those fluent in online tongues is admirable.

"They might not be reading Shakespeare and Dickens but they are reading and cooking up these amazing little games – and showing that they are very creative. I’m quite impressed with these movements."

Txt spk

One language change that has definitely been overhyped is so-called text speak, a mixture of often vowel-free abbreviations and acronyms, says Prof Crystal.

"People say that text messaging is a new language and that people are filling texts with abbreviations – but when you actually analyse it you find they’re not," he said.

In fact only 10% of the words in an average text are not written in full, he added.

They may be in the minority but acronyms seem to anger as many people as they delight.

Stephen Fry once blasted the acronym CCTV (closed circuit television) for being "such a bland, clumsy, rythmically null and phonically forgettable word, if you can call it a word".

But his inelegant group of letters is one of many acronyms to earn a place in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The secret of their success is their longevity.

"We need evidence that people are using a word over a period of time," said Fiona McPherson, senior editor in the new words group at the OED.

She says the group looks for evidence that a word has been in use for at least five years before it can earn its place in the dictionary.

Such evidence comes in the form of correspondence from the public and trawling through dated material to find out when a term first started appearing.

Hence TMI (Too Much Information) and WTF (you may wish to look that one up for yourself) are in, while OMG (Oh My God) has yet to be included in the quarterly dictionary updates.

"Some people get quite exercised and say, ‘do these things belong in our language?’," said Ms McPherson.

"But maybe this has always happened. TTFN [ta ta for now] is from the ITMA (It’s That Man Again) radio series in the 1940s."

Word thief

There is no doubt that technology has had a "significant impact" on language in the last 10 years, says Ms McPherson.

Some entirely new words like the verb ‘to google’, or look something up on a search engine, and the noun ‘app’, used to describe programmes for smartphones (not yet in the OED), have either been recently invented or come into popular use.

text speak

Website lists 5,090 English language acronyms in use.

But the hijacking of existing words and phrases is more common.

Ms McPherson points out that the phrase "social networking" debuted in the OED in 1973. Its definition – "the use or establishment of social networks or connections" – has only comparatively recently been linked to internet-based activities.

"These are words that have arisen out of the phenomenon rather than being technology words themselves," she added.

"Wireless in the 1950s meant a radio. It’s very rare to talk about a radio now as a wireless, unless you’re of a particular generation or trying to be ironic. The word has taken on a whole new significance."

For Prof Crystal it is still too early to fully evaluate the impact of technology on language.

"The whole phenomenon is very recent – the entire technology we’re talking about is only 20 years old as far as the popular mind is concerned."

Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a word is that it becomes too mainstream, he argues.

"Remember a few years ago, West Indians started talking about ‘bling’. Then the white middle classes started talking about it and they stopped using it.

"That’s typical of slang – it happens with internet slang as well."



By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News


Filed under: Article of the Week, , ,

Sample Question Papers for Class IX and X for Term I (September 2010)

Science (Class IX & X)

Mathematics (Class IX & X)

Home Science (Class IX)

Home Science (Class X)

Foundation of Information Technology (Class IX & X)

Social Science (Class IX)

Social Science (Class X)

Typewriting (Class IX)

Typewriting (Class X)

Book Keeping and Accountancy (Class IX)

Book Keeping and Accountancy (Class X)

Elements of Business (Class IX)

Elements of Business (Class X)

Hindi – A (Class IX)  |  Font

Hindi – A (Class X)  |  Font

Hindi – B (Class IX)  |  Font

Hindi – B (Class X)  |  Font

Sanskrit (Class IX)  |  Font

Sanskrit (Class X)  |  Font

Urdu – A (Class IX)

Urdu – B (Class IX)

Urdu – A (Class X)

Urdu – B (Class X)

Punjabi (Class IX)

Punjabi (Class X)

Marathi (Class IX & X)

German (Class IX)

German (Class X)

Japanese (Class IX)  |  Font

Japanese (Class X)  |  Font

French (Class IX)

French (Class X)

English Language and Literature (Class IX)

English Language and Literature (Class X)

English Communicative (Class IX)

English Communicative (Class X)

Assemese (Class IX)

Assemese (Class X)

Bodo (Class IX)

Manipuri (Class IX)

Manipuri (Class X)

Mizo (Class X)

Mizo (Class IX)

Tangkhul (Class IX)

Telugu (Class IX)

Telugu (Class X)

Painting (Class IX & X)

Carnatic Music (Vocal) (Class IX & X)

Tamil (Class X)

Tamil (Class IX)

Hindustani Music (Class IX)

Hindustani Music (Class X)

Bengali (Class IX)

Bengali (Class X)

Gujarati (Class IX & X)

Kannada (Class IX)

Kannada (Class X)

Malyalam (Class IX)

Malyalam (Class X)

Odia (Class IX)

Odia (Class X)

Sindhi (Class X)


Courtesy: CBSE

Filed under: Downloads,

Onam Book Fair Begins

Students at Kendriya Vidyalaya Pattom celebrates this Onam with books. The Library Media Centre in collaboration with New Light Publications began a three day long Book Fair in the campus yesterday. Mr.C.P.Kumaran, Principal inaugurated the fair. Fiction, non fiction, reference, children’s books and a variety of teaching aids are on exhibition and sale with special discounts.


Mr.C.P.Kumarn, Principal inaugurating the Onam Book Fair 2010








Filed under: Library activities, ,

5 Ways That Paper Books Are Better Than eBooks

By Richard MacManus

Note: this isn’t an ‘either/or’ argument, my main point in these posts is that each format (paper / electronic) has its strengths and weaknesses. Having said that, it may not be too far into the future when we begin to think of this as an either/or proposition. Remember that the future of paper newspapers is now seriously in question, so it may not be long before the same happens to paper books.

1. Feel

Paper books just feel good in your hands – even the best designed eReader is a cold, lifeless steely contraption by comparison. Paper books are also seen as "more personal," which was a comment that a number of people made on the previous post. You can become attached to a copy of your favorite novel, or a well thumbed book of poetry. I own a worn copy of the novel ‘Catch-22,’ which I have read a number of times since my University days – and no eBook could ever replace the memories it evokes whenever I pick that book up.

How can eBooks match this in the future? They may never do, but perhaps we will find that the features I listed in my previous post assume greater nostalgic significance instead: highlighted text, notes that you made back in your University days, and the ability to search and find all of this very easily.

You know it's a good bookstore when...

2. Packaging

I bought a poetry book for Kindle on iPad last week, but it turned out that the eBook was missing half of the image of an obscure painting that adorned the front and back covers of the paper edition. The eBook just had the front cover art, not the back cover art. This is one small example of how paper books can have a more beautiful package than eBooks.

Best cover in my LibraryWe could similarly point to book binding and typeface, both often carefully selected by publishing companies for their paper editions. It can make a big difference to one’s reading experience.

If eBooks are to challenge this feature, it will need to be with something unique and native to the electronic format. For inspiration, we can look to what Arcade Fire did with the electronic release of its latest album. As a way to try and match the album art and booklet available on CD, Arcade Fire came up with an artistic package it called "synchronised artwork." This enabled listeners to access imagery, lyrics and links on their iPod or iPhone while listening to the album. Some might say that it still isn’t as good as a CD package, but this is the challenge for electronic mediums – to come up with alternatives that offer something equally compelling, perhaps even more so.

Skip Knox summed it up well in a comment: "We need a new generation of authors and publishers who will create new art forms around the technology. We’re still at the point analogous to the early years of movies, when all they could think to do was essentially film a stage play."

3. Sharing

I noted in the last post that receiving marked up books from a friend is something that can’t be duplicated by eBooks – yet. Also, you can’t lend a copy of an eBook to someone else. DRM (Digital Rights Management) or incompatible eBook formats prevent that. DRMHowever, I have to think that both of those features – personal notes and sharing eBooks – will get figured out by eReader manufacturers sooner or later. There is no technological reason it can’t be done, it’s more a matter of navigating the always murky DRM waters and people getting used to new kinds of ‘reading’ functionality. Just as we DM people on Twitter or send email, sending messages or notes to another person via an eBook is a feature that would be useful and eventually well used.

4. Keeping

On the topics of DRM and eBook formats, not only is this an issue for sharing – but for your own future accessibility of books. As Adrian Lafond eloquently noted, "If I "buy" an e-book, read it, put it in storage, and try to re-read it in 10 years (since I "own" it) it’s anybody’s guess whether there will exist a platform or device on which that will be possible for that particular e-book format and DRM scheme."

Gwyn Headley added, a little cynically, that eBooks are great for books "you know you will never want to read again."

To be frank, I think the same risks apply to paper books too. I have misplaced favorite books over the years or lent them to people and not had them returned. However, eBook and eReader manufacturers certainly need to address this issue before consumers are truly comfortable buying them over paper books.

5. Second-hand books

Booktree & Biography CornerA few people noted that eBooks are still too expensive and that you can’t get cheap second-hand copies. Or for that matter, expensive first edition copies.

Similar to previous points, eBooks won’t necessarily be able to match this ‘feature’ of paper books. However, the price of eBooks will likely drop over time and become more flexible. Indeed, I picked up a copy of the full works of Emerson and Thoreau this week for a few dollars – cheaper (and much lighter) than I could’ve gotten anywhere else for a paper copy. We’ll see more of this type of pricing as the eBook market ramps up.

In summary, there are pros and cons for both paper books and eBooks. The eBook market is ripe for innovation and breakthroughs in how we read, so eBooks will only improve over the coming years.

In the final analysis though, the real value of any book – whether read via paper or electronically – is in the words.



Filed under: Reading Tips, , ,

Celebrate this Onam with books: Onam Book Fair: 18-20 August


Onam Book Fair

18 to 20 August 2010

in collaboration with New Light Publishing Company Pvt. ltd, Trivandrum

Time: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Venue: Resource Room, KV Pattom

Lots of Books !!!

Attractive discounts !!!!

Filed under: Library activities

New tools of learning


The black board and the chalk have given way to LCDs and Power Point presentations. E-learning and web conferencing are now regular modes of imparting education in colleges. A look at this new trend of learning and teaching.

Technology has not only changed lifestyles, but has also shaken the beliefs of a conditioned mind. ‘Boards’ are associated with ‘black’, but with the ushering in of technology, white boards now rule the roost. More and more educational institutions in Chennai are becoming truly global in terms of emulating and accepting sophisticated standards in providing infrastructure to students.

Apart from the 80 new ‘smart’ classrooms retrofitted with projectors, PCs and smart interactive boards, Anna University boasts of a 100 per cent Wi-Fi environment. “We have shelters built under trees called ‘Internet trees’ to enable students to browse on their laptops whenever they want, comfortably,” says P. Mannar Jawahar, vice-chancellor, Anna University. About Rs. 300 crore from different funding institutions has been directed to improvise and standardise the university by installing modern machinery, he says.

“The students in our college are encouraged to learn by discovery, not by rote, that involves a lot of in-depth research,” says Leenus J. Martin, HoD, SRM (automobile engineering), adding that the college now has an Active Learning laboratory. The university has institutional membership with other leading libraries in the country such as ARAI and IIT. Hence the resources are shared by the faculty and students through correspondence. Leading E-journal materials such as ScienceDirect, IEEE, Elsevier, and Springer are also made available in the college library.

E-learning and web-conferencing have become regular modes of imparting education in colleges such as Madras Christian College. “With the advent of the electronic pad and mike, the teacher can draw a diagram or solve a problem and it would be captured live for later use,” a student of the college says.

Class III biological safety cabinet has been introduced in the department of Microbiology of Presidency College to enhance the safety measures while handling pathogens. The Department of Geology has an atomic absorption microscope worth Rs. 25 lakh to detect trace elements. Geology and some other departments have the facility of focussing the microscope and viewing the information through the computer monitor.

While the Computer science department at the Presidency provides Bachelor’s in Computer Application for deaf and dumb students with the help of special equipment and teaching tools, Loyola College has a digital library for disabled students to help them cope with the curriculum using different technologies and audio software and touch tools.

Vice-Chancellor of Madras University G. Thiruvasagam says colleges have to provide necessary infrastructure to enable the students to adopt an application-oriented approach to studies. Most colleges today provide a personal Internet account with login and storage facilities for every student, and many also allow extra privileges to make sure their student communities do not lag behind.

“Colleges get very competitive during tech fests and research work, and infrastructure here matters a lot,” says Shreya Nataraj, a student at Loyola, adding that most teachers now teach using Power Point presentations to be part of this modernised learning.

More than 900 additional courses in 15 different disciplines are expected to be launched soon under the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning, launched by the IITs, that would make quality technical education available to anyone with access to Internet.

“The teaching methods have definitely changed, and there’s a lot of impetus given to laboratory work, we have labs for so many courses now,” says Vigneshwaran, a student at Loyola. The functioning of every college has become so autonomous and systematic, that every department functions as a different school altogether with its own customised facilities, laboratories, resource centres, etc., he says.

But there are a few who feel a lot of dependence on technology poses a threat to teacher-student interaction. “Traditional classrooms won’t work any more as they are stereotyped as boring places where discipline is insisted upon; technology has helped us a great deal, but the personal intervention has also decreased because everything is so computer-dependent now,” says P. Arunachalam, a retired professor and a researcher now.

    Vasudha Venugopal
    Lavanya. M

Filed under: Article of the Week

How to face a stress interview


By B.S. Warrier

A stress interview evaluates the ability of a candidate when he/she is deliberately put under severe tension.

A stress interview aims at testing the candidate’s behaviour while he is being deliberately put under severe tension. This evaluates his ability to work efficiently in an atmosphere in which he is tensed up. For example, a marketing professional may have to face offensive behaviour from a rude client. The professional should not misbehave even under such adverse circumstances.

In a stress interview, the interviewer may try to discomfort the candidate in different ways and watch his responses in different situations. It is an evaluation of the job-seeker’s behaviour and emotional stability when put under pressure. Some of the techniques for stress interviews are the following:

Posing a number of questions one after the other in the ‘rapid fire’ style thereby denying breathing time.

Putting a question before the answer to the previous one is finished.

Making irritating or offending remarks while the candidate is answering questions.

Upsetting his mental balance by asking irrelevant personal questions.

Hurling insults or by raising baseless allegations.

The interviewer may deliberately adopt certain irritating styles such as not asking you to sit down when you reach his table for the interview; retracting his hand when you stretch yours for a handshake initiated by him; remaining silent without asking you any question; keeping on poring over your resume without any reaction or comment; avoiding eye contact; constantly interrupting you; sighing when you give a right answer; initiating baseless arguments; using insulting phrases; making comments that unjustly belittles you; keeping a wooden face.

Yet another style may involve a panel of interviewers, asking you questions in a random manner on different subjects. Even before you complete an answer from one member, another member would shoot another question, creating confusion. They would grill you without giving you time for thinking or planning your answers. They may ask you stupid questions as well.

The interviewer may tell you that he does not believe what you have claimed as achievements in your resume, or that you scored high marks in the university examination only by cheating. He may pose a riddle that has nothing to do with your job.

See some samples of irritating questions that may upset you.

Are you not hiding some of you failures from us?

Why do you think that I am a poor interviewer?

You were sacked from your previous job. Are you not trying a cover-up?

How will you react when you are caught swindling out of company cash?

You are unfit for this kind of position. Why don’t you try for something lower?

You are a woman. Is it not a pipedream that you can take up this kind of heavy responsibilities?

Why do you lose your temper frequently?

Are you not too old for this job?

Why should there be stress interviews?

The prospective employer may have different reasons for holding a stress interview. This would help the employer to find out whether the candidate would

wilt under pressure

face adverse situations with courage

maintain high levels of confidence even under stress

handle adversity efficiently

manage difficult situations effectively, without buckling under pressure

keep his equanimity and do only what is right even under duress

speak logically even under pressure

lose his cool and react violently if insulted

You should realise that stress situations are a deliberately planned strategy to test you. If you can keep in mind that all these are in fact harmless tests to unearth your real temperament, you can undergo this exercise with a smile and respond well. The most vital thing is that you should never lose your mental equilibrium. You will be evaluated by the panel, knowing fully well that you are under severe tension artificially created for the trial. No board would announce that you are to face a stress interview. If you smell this possibility, plan your responses appropriately.

Never keep in mind a negative approach, under the impression that the stress interview is a vain and redundant exercise. You can take it as an opportunity to face an interesting challenge. A smile within you and a confident approach are sure to make you win. Never show your frustration. Act as if you take the exercise as a pleasant experience. Keep your sense of humour. Give short answers. Handle the questions with aplomb. Speak softly. Believe in yourself. Keep your confidence at its peak.

There should be nothing abnormal in your behaviour. Be cheerful even when provoked. You should never seem to be nervous. Do not try to win debating points. Do not argue. Do not overreact. Do not take any word or action of the interviewer as a personal insult. If you do not know something, confess your ignorance straightaway. Remember that often the interviewer is not checking the accuracy of your answers, but your behaviour under pressure.

The other view

There is a school of thought that the stress interview is an unnecessary tool for assessment. There is no need of the human resources professionals trying to embarrass or insult the candidates seeking a job. The tool is sometimes misused by some of the HR managers for satisfying their ego . The trauma of the stress interview may de-motivate some brilliant candidates. The stress interview atmosphere may create a master-servant situation that has lost its relevance in the modern employer-employer relationships. An interview may be considered as a two-way traffic where the job seeker is assessing the company, just as the company is assessing the job seeker. A candidate with a sparkling record of integrity and uprightness rightly expecting dignified treatment may be dissuaded by a demeaning approach from the interviewer.

What is given above is only one side of the picture. If you have to face a stress interview, you should know the right strategies to face it.


Courtesy: The Hindu

Filed under: Career Corner

Songs of Blood and Sword



Fatima Bhuto

(Visit the Library’s new arrival section to read)

Reviewed by Arifa Akbar

In 1979, as Pakistan’s first-elected president, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, languished in the death cells of Rawalpindi Prison, deposed, enfeebled, his teeth rotting and his daily meal spiked with "shards of glass", he penned a letter to his sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz, suggesting his will was not yet been broken: "If you do not avenge my murder, you are not my sons".

Bhutto’s command, rather like the King of Denmark’s ghostly visitation upon Hamlet, and now recounted by his granddaughter, Fatima Bhutto, in her memoir, sparked a ferocious, murderous family feud in the four decades following his execution. The fight shows no sign of ending, especially now, after this book virtually accuses the current Pakistani president, Asif Zardari, of sanctioning Murtaza’s murder, with his late wife, Benazir Bhutto (Fatima’s aunt) as accomplice.

The Bhutto brothers die trying to clear their father’s name, as the founder and leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Following their exile from Pakistan after launching an ‘armed struggle’ against Zia, Shahnawaz was found poisoned in Cannes, aged 26, while Murtaza was killed in a police shoot-out, on his return to Pakistan, aged 42. Benazir, their eldest sister, served two terms as prime minister before her assassination, at 54.

The life story Bhutto tells is a blend of her own combined with her father’s, and a history of their feudal dynasty. She argues, in her memoir, that there is still something rotten in the state of Pakistan. As much as this is a loving portrait of Murtaza, it also reads as a hate-filled exposé of Benazir and her husband. Once Fatima’s favourite aunt, nicknamed Pinky, Benazir is shown as a rapacious woman who may have had a hand in her brothers’ deaths. The trouble with these dichotomous portraits of good sibling/evil sibling is that they are crassly over-simplified.


She presents her father as a picture of political purity. His factional offshoot of the PPP – Shaheed Bhutto, founded after a fall out with Benazir – was fiercely idealistic. Yet Murtaza was not as wholesome as she argues. He was representative of the "lost dreams of the PPP", she says, but skates over the violence espoused by his party.

William Dalrymple has written that Murtaza was "alleged to have sentenced to death several former associates", and under the guidance of Yasser Arafat, he and Shahnawaz received arms and training. Bhutto argues that Murtaza attempted to drive the party back to the fine socialist principles on which it was founded by Zulfikar, but the latter cut a compromised figure by the time he was executed, having amended the constitution to enhance his powers.

Benazir’s rule was mired in corruption, Fatima asserts, with descriptions that often descend into puerile gibing: Benazir could not read Urdu, she kept stack of Mills & Boons in her bedroom, she donned the headscarf to attract votes. Blame for Pakistan’s sorry state of affairs is parked squarely on her grave.

At other times, the Bhuttos appear coddled: Pakistani versions of the Carringtons, Ewings and Kennedys rolled into one, with their American education, their breeding, jetset lives and presidential buddies (who often endow Bhutto exiles with a free home and a state car).

Bhutto occasionally employs a language of pulpy romanticism to describe her favourite relatives, with ample mentions of daddy’s favourite colognes and suits, her grandmother’s "chiselled cheekbones" and the tall, beautiful Della, Murtaza’s Greek lover, who, when trapped in a former abusive marriage, "became a model." Naturally.

Yet this is, in spite of the shortcomings, a story with dazzling twists and turns told by a true-blue member of the Bhutto fold, with its family history of idealism, political betrayal, murder, hubris and paranoia. Yet another Bhutto seeks vengeance, though this time with a pen, not the sword.



Filed under: Book of the week, ,

How Google Counted The World’s 129 Million Books


In a blog post published this week, search mammoth Google explained the deep and thoroughly elaborate algorithm used by its literary offshoot, Google Books, to count just how many books exist in the world, right now.

Seeing as there’s no official standard to cataloging tomes (the final term Google settled on for defining what is and isn’t worth cataloging in Google Books, tomes are bound volumes that can be printed millions of times, or just once), plenty of systems were deemed unreliable.

Take ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers). They’ve only been around since the 1960s, and then only came into provenance in the 70s. They also discount books not intended for commercial distribution, and are mostly only used in the western world. You’ll also sometimes find up to 1,500 books assigned to the same ISBN, and irrelevant items like CDs, bookmarks and even t-shirts having Book Numbers.

Other identifiers, like the Library of Congress Control Numbers and OCLC accession numbers, feature duplication, redundancy, and immense reduction for series featuring thousands of volumes. More unreliability that lead Google needing to make up its own identifying system.

The final process involved a massive metadata collection from hundreds of these providers, including catalogues and commercial providers, which are then intensely parsed and analysed. The initial raw data features close to a billion records, which are reduced to 600 million when superficial duplication is reduced.

Then it’s a case of separating the wheat from the chaff, using different attributes and fields to spot duplications and redundancies, even when its as confusing as the same book being attributed to several different publishers, or the exact same book featuring two massively different names. That drops the count down to 210 million.

Then its on to excluding non-book items, which Google counts as “microforms (8 million), audio recordings (4.5 million), videos (2 million), maps (another 2 million), t-shirts with ISBNs (about one thousand) and turkey probes (1, added to a library catalog as an April Fools joke).”

Finally, Google reaches the number it has been looking for, and believes the count is a pretty reliable representation of the world’s books: 129,864,880. “At least until Sunday,” Google says.

Read More

Filed under: Article of the Week

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010: Rana Dasgupta


SOLO by Rana Dasgupta, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best Book. The award was given away by Dr Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs at an award ceremony in New Delhi on 12 April 2010.

Solo is a kaleidoscopic novel about the life and daydreams of Ulrich, a one hundred-year-old man from Bulgaria. Set in a country that has belonged sometimes to Asia and sometimes to Europe, Solo is a book about lost roots, broken traditions and wasted ambitions – and the ways human beings overcome those failures.

In a press release by the Commonwealth Foundation, the judges said that they ‘chose Solo for its innovation, ambition, courage and effortless elegant prose. A remarkable novel of two halves, this is a book that takes risks and examines the places where grim reality and fantastical daydreams merge, diverge, and feed off each other. Solo, the judges concluded, is a tour de force, breathtaking in its boldness and narrative panache.’

Present on the occasion were Professor M G K Menon, President, India International Centre, Dr Mark Collins, Director, Commonwealth Foundation, Mr Charles Gray, Global Head of Financial Services, Macquarie Group, Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM, Chair, Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General. The evening was moderated by Barkha Dutt, Indian TV Journalist and Columnist.

Siddon Rock by Glenda Guest from Australia was declared of the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2010 Best First Book.

The 2010 pan-Commonwealth panel of judges which decided the overall winners was chaired by Hon Justice Nicholas Hasluck AM (Chair of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize), and comprised of the four regional chairpersons: Elinor Sisulu (Africa); Antonia MacDonald-Smythe (Caribbean and Canada); Muneeza Shamsie (South Asia and Europe); and Anne Brewster (South East Asia and Pacific), along with the Delhi-based local judge Makarand Paranjape, twice regional chair of the Prize.

Rana Dasgupta


Rana Dasgupta (born November 5, 1971 in Canterbury, England) is a British-Indian novelist and essayist. He grew up in Cambridge, England and studied at Balliol College, Oxford, the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud in Aix-en-Provence, and the University of Wisconsin邦adison. He lives in Delhi, India.
His first novel, Tokyo Cancelled (2005), is an examination of the forces and experiences of globalization. Billed as a modern-day Canterbury Tales, thirteen passengers stuck overnight in an airport tell thirteen stories from different cities in the world, stories that resemble contemporary fairytales, mythic and surreal. The tales add up to a broad exploration of 21st century forms of life, which includes billionaires, film stars, migrant labourers, illegal immigrants and sailors. [1] Tokyo Cancelled was shortlisted for the 2005 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

Dasgupta’s second novel, Solo (2009) is an epic tale of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries told from the perspective of a one hundred-year old Bulgarian man. Having achieved little in his twentieth-century life, he settles into a long and prophetic daydream of the twenty-first century, where all the ideological experiments of the old century are over, and a collection of startling characters – demons and angels – live a life beyond utopia. Rana Dasgupta has been awarded the 」10,000 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his novel Solo.


About the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize

The Commonwealth Foundation established the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1987. The objectives of the prize are to promote new voices, reward achievement, encourage wider readership and greater literacy, thereby increasing appreciation of different cultures and building understanding between cultures. The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is chaired by Justice Nicholas Hasluck, distinguished Australian author and leading judicial officer.



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