How email stole your novel

Published: Thursday, March 28 2013 7:00 a.m. MDT

What a novel manuscript looks like — or a print-out of all of the emails you wrote last year.

Ruthanne Reid, "thisreidwrites" via flickr

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If Cue's survey is correct, email is stealing the novel that is lying inside of everybody just waiting to get out. Sort of.

Cue, (a website and app at cueup.com that, according to Wikipedia, "pulls information from online accounts to present an overview of a user's day") found that people received, on average, 5,579 emails in 2012. This compares to people sending, on average, a mere 869 emails.

But where is the novel?

According to Cue, people wrote an average of 41,368 words in those 869 emails.

Atlantic magazine explains the novel connections: "To put those 41,638 discrete pieces of communication in perspective, that word count, in the aggregate, is roughly equivalent to a novel that is 166 pages in length. (The industry standard for page length is 250 words per page.) Which makes the average Cue user's email output slightly greater than 'The Old Man and the Sea' (127 pages long), slightly less than 'The Great Gatsby' (182 pages), and just about equal to 'The Turn of the Screw' (165 pages)."

So, theoretically, if people would have spent their time writing that novel hidden inside them instead of emailing, they just may have finished the next New York Times bestseller. Or something like "Fifty Shades of Grey."

But the opportunity cost doesn’t stop there. Another Atlantic article explains how a study by the McKinsey Global Institute shows people spend 13 hours a week, or 28 percent of their time in the office on email.

The Getting Things Done blog, gtdtimes.com, looked at this also with novels in mind "What’s more surprising is that we received more than six times as much email as we sent. Even if you deleted some of that email without needing to read it, you probably read several novel’s worth of email last year."

An older survey by Harris Interactive and featured on ABC News found that the average number of emails workers could handle effectively each day was about 50.

Todd Wasserman on Mashable says McKinsey Global Institute and International Data Corp. found that email is the second-most time-consuming activity for workers and "that time spent on email can be cut by 25 percent -30 percent by introducing social networking communications into a business."

Just for the record, if you took "The Turn of the Screw" and broke it down to 140-character messages on social media service Twitter.com, it would take 1,632 tweets to send out the book.

Or, you could write your own novel.

EMAIL: mdegroote@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @degroote

Facebook: facebook.com/madegroote

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