Bigger than the phone book

In fact, literally so, in the case of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

I’ve often told people that the catalog of shows is bigger than the phone book for an average city — a claim that will be uninterpretable to many, since most of us hardly ever see telephone directories now. But I would hate for you to think that I spoke loosely. Let’s get quantitative. Edinburgh does still have a phone book, published by BT (formerly British Telecom). It covers not just the city of Edinburgh but the whole Lothian county in which it sits. And the new edition just arrived. So I have the Edinburgh and Lothian phone book on the table before me, beside the Edinburgh Festival Fringe catalog. I have compared them. I have numbers.

And by gum, he has:

The phone book has 513 pages of information (18 of front matter and 495 lists of business and residential phone numbers). Those pages are 16.5 cm by 29.5 cm (about 6’ 5″ by 11’ 6″), for a total of 16.5 × 29.5 × 513 = 249,677 square centimeters of information.

The Fringe catalog uses a wider page size, 19.5 cm by 29.5 (about 7’ 7″ by 11’ 6″), and there are 459 pages of information, for a total of 19.5 × 29.5 × 459 = 264,017 square centimeters.

The latter is 1.057 times bigger than the former.

Remind me never to challenge this gentleman on — well, anything, really.


  1. McG »

    6 August 2017 · 9:21 pm

    It’s easy to be bigger by letting the other guy be denser. And I’m pretty sure the catalog’s information density is probably less.

  2. CGHill »

    6 August 2017 · 9:53 pm

    Or maybe not. He says:

    The two books both use extremely small fonts, tightly spaced as if paper was being strictly rationed. It isn’t worth trying to do font measurements and character counts. Square footage is what counts (or square centimeters: it’s metric over here).

    Sounds like more or less equivalent density to me.

  3. Roger Green »

    7 August 2017 · 12:23 am

    I have friends from here who go every year!

  4. McG »

    7 August 2017 · 11:13 am

    I stand corrected. But it raises the question, “How do people manage to see all those shows?”

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