I don't know what the cover art may have been, nor the publication date. This was described to me by someone, and I want to find it and read it. No idea on the author, but here's the description I was given:

There’s famous email from a programmer in the 70s or 80s who wrote a short sci-fi story, a dystopic tale, about a distant future where the data of humanity was so large that they needed a planet to host it all on, and then they had so many acronyms they had to make another catalog to define them all which took up another planet… or something along those lines.


2 Answers 2


This sounds like Hal Draper's "MS Fnd in a Lbry", from 1961. I have it in a collection called 17 X Infinity, edited by Groff Conklin. Conveniently, Wikipedia has an entry for this story, saving me the effort of summarizing:

The title of the short story comes from the fact that all redundancy - and vowels - had been removed from our language in order for the information volume to shrink. Finally the sum of all human knowledge (which was sort of finite) was stored away in a drawer-sized box by means of subatomic processes. However the access to that information required complicated indices, bibliographies etc., which soon outgrew the size of all knowledge. The society described quickly discovers that while knowledge itself can be encoded in ever-more compact forms, the catalogs and indexing information required to use it fill up the same space as before, and so meta-catalogs are born, and then meta-meta-catalogs, and so on.

The concept, then, is that that more you compress and encode data, the more work you have to retrieve that information, which can be more than the original data cost you in the first place.


Planets aside, the story you're describing is almost certainly a version of the classic Borges short story "The Library of Babel" in which we find a library which contains all books ever written

"On some shelf in some hexagon, it was argued, there must exist a book that is the cipher and perfect compendium of all other books, and some librarian must have examined that book; this librarian is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone there are still vestiges of the sect that worshiped that distant librarian. Many have gone in search of Him. For a hundred years, men beat every possible path— and every path in vain."

  • Or Kurd Lasswitz's "The Universal Library". But Avner Shahar-Kashtan's answer hits the nail on the head.
    – user14111
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:30
  • While similar in concept, almost nothing from the description matches this story. Dec 26, 2015 at 19:48
  • @ArturoTorresSánchez - "a version of". E.g. this probably isn't it, but it's almost certainly related.
    – Valorum
    Dec 26, 2015 at 19:50

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