Book Values

The book value of an asset or group of assets is sometimes the price at which they were originally acquired (historic cost), in many cases equal to purchase price. (Wikipedia)

When I was my son’s age, I received an allowance of $2.00 a week (provided that I did all my chores and did not talk back to my parents). Back then, paperback books cost about 65 cents. This meant, if I saved extra pennies, I could buy three books a week. When the price went to 75 cents, it became two books plus some extra change—annoying, but tolerable. When the prices rose to 95 cents and then $1.25, it was a devastating development. It meant I had to start re-reading books I already owned. Not a bad thing, but it meant that I was falling behind on new books that came out. (This problem persists to this day, but the limitation is no longer financial, but a lack of time to keep up with all the new releases.)

Recently, I went to the local bookstore and purchased a paperback book. The cover price was $6.99. Even accounting for inflation, that’s a bit of money for a bunch of sheets of paper glued together with a fancy cover. The last hardcover book I purchased (which I still do from time to time when impatience overwhelms me) was priced at $24.95. Wow! Both paperback and hardcover prices seem a bit high to me, even accounting for inflation, the costs of paper, printing, and advertising. On the other hand, what value am I getting for my entertainment dollar?

Let’s see . . . the last time I went to see a movie, the ticket cost me $7.00 (about the same as that paperback book). Seven dollars for about two hours of entertainment. I don’t know about you, but I would be hard-pressed to finish most books in two hours. Add in the factor of being able to read at your own pace and convenience. (Movies on DVD are a different story. I’ll leave that proof as an exercise for the reader.) Suddenly, that $6.99 paperback looks like a bargain in comparison!

What about hardcover books? Certainly, they are more of a stretch on the budget, but in terms of entertainment value per hour, the cost still strikes me as fairly compelling. Using $7.00 for two hours of entertainment as a measure, does a hardcover provide more than seven hours of entertainment? Except in rare cases, I would say that it does.

So what is the value of a book?

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