Prepare to be bored…

February 4, 2010


I was noticing something the other day whilst reading a book. I said to myself, “There are a lot of pages in this book.” I’ve been reading for while now, and I know about how big books are. So when I looked at this seemingly normal book and noticed that I was on page 500, I knew that something was up.

I went down to the basement and pulled several other similar sized books off the shelf (and one bigger and one smaller) and started to compare them. I almost immediately noticed that they all had pages. Then I noticed that one of them probably belongs to Brad and that I’ve had it since maybe high school.

One of these is REALLY over due.

Looking at those books, you’d probably imagine that the five in the middle are roughly the same size. Except now, with two paragraphs of build-up you’d probably imagine anything at all but. Well, here’s the data…

Book Year Cost Pages Words ¢ / kWords in 2009 dollars
tEotW 1990 $6.99 814 320,000 2.2 3.1
E 2006 $7.99 638 265,000 3.0 3.2
tRotK 1986 $3.95 543 182,000 2.2 4.3
M 1984 $3.50 358 142,000 2.5 5.1
BA 1983 $2.95 327 121,000 2.4 5.3
Mot5M 1980 $2.25 373 131,000 1.7 4.5
BtH 1948 $0.75 158 78,000 1.0 8.6


So, what’s the point? There are probably lots of points you could make from that mess. Some of them might even be true. My point? I had no idea that you could make a page half as wide as another page. I mean, pages are already pretty thin. Do they just split them down the middle?

For years I’ve been watching the price of books go up. I started buying books my freshman year in high school, and my memory was that they typically cost between $1.95 and $2.25 each. Lately they cost more like $6.99 and up. It was starting to get my goat until I did the calculations for that last column. Adjusting for inflation, I’m actually paying quite a bit less per word. It sort of makes you feel sorry for authors.


About Lloyd

Lloyd Sommerer is a middle/high school teacher who likes to build websites, read books, grow beards, make fun of Lauren’s prototypes and eat the sauce of the picante.

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21 Responses to “Prepare to be bored…”

  1. Brad Said on:

    I don’t even know what to do with old books anymore. I still have a couple of boxes of them in the basement. But when I get new ones, they end up all over my house. Maybe I should just burn them. Burning solves lots of problems.


  2. Peggy Said on:

    I have a ton of books too, and once every blue moon, I pack up a bag & give them to good will.

    And I don’t think books are cheaper…at least not at B&N. I never find a book for $6.99. They’re all 12.99 & up…mostly up.


  3. Lauren Said on:

    I would just like to point out that Lloyd is a Super. Duper. Dork. I love him, but honestly, who calculates cost per word?


  4. Karla Said on:

    I like to get my books from Borders. They send me coupons at least once a week, so I get 25% off or more. 🙂 Gotta love coupons!


  5. Beth Said on:

    Dear Lloyd,

    Because you apparently have an ample amount of free time, could you please come to my house and dust? And then vacuum (sorry about the wrinkly carpet), and then maybe work on touch up painting any walls that need it? And the carpets could use shampooing…

    Many thanks,


  6. CousinSam Said on:

    I shouldn’t have to point this out to uber computer/math book nerd, but the cost per kword for stolen books is 0. That’s we some folks turn to a life of crime- that and not having to read posts about atomic paper splitting.


  7. Lauren Said on:

    What’s everybody doing up so early?


    • Rae Said on:

      Early?? Sam is up ANYTHING but early! By the time Sam posted, I had been up for almost 1.5 hours. And he was LATE getting up. Now I know why he was no help this morning, he was too busy posting about stealing books and atomic paper splitting! Come to think of it, he automated gravatar looks a lot like I did this morning. 🙂


  8. Curt Said on:

    Although you can do a fair amount of analysis with this data, you should include words per page and cost per page. This would give you better idea of the material costs. But than again what are you paying for? The pages or the words?


    • Curt Said on:

      So after asking my question, and looking back at your cost per word, does this mean that the words of today’s authors are worth less than in the past?


    • Lloyd Said on:

      I didn’t actually count the words in each book. I took the number of pages * number of lines * characters per line / average English word length.

      There are a number of assumptions in there.


  9. Charles Said on:

    Books? What are books?


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