I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Books - just how valuable?

Reading's cheap, isn't it? Let's say cheapish Take a new novel, undiscounted, 250-pages, non-"experimental" (ie, easier to read) at £15. An average reading speed of 30 pp/hr (Yes, I know you can read far far quicker but your next-door neighbour hasn't had your educational benefits; hence "average") gives a rate of £1.80/hr, ignoring the second-hand value of the book afterwards.

But other delights should be compared.

Watching telly. Basic spend whooshes up (New flat-screen Panasonic £500, TV licence £145.50, electricity costs per year £25, adding up to an eye-watering £670.50). Yet for that you could be entertained for 8760 hr/yr, assuming you didn't sleep. Let's say a more modest 5 hr/day, amounting to 1825 hr/yr at a rate of 37 p/hr for the first year.

Assuming the Panasonic lasted 10 years the average spend, over the decade, would drop to 12 p/hr.

Going for walks. Say £200 for two pairs of boots. Why? Because you could, theoretically, walk for 6 hr/day every day of the year - 2190 hr. And that works out at 9 p/hr.

Watching opera. Ticket at ROH, Covent Garden £88, getting there if you're a Londoner, say, £15. Opera lasts 3 hr. Rate for snobby intellectual: £34/hr.

Driving car. Say 10,000 miles/year. Depreciation on car £1500, licence (varies) - say £150, insurance £300, fuel costs at 40 mpg £1475: total £3425. Cost per mile 34 p.  Cost per hour at average 40 mph: £14. How many miles could be described as pleasurable? In London - none, in Hereford - lots.

To come: Reading's Realities - Part two: Delusions. - Part three: Rewards  


  1. Take lots of time turning pages and it won't cost you a dime.

  2. Reading is even cheaper when using the local library's offerings!

    I'm curious - have you figured out the cost of e-readers and e-books?

  3. Ellena: That's a very entertaining attitude you have towards mathematics, Lady of the Laurentian Plain. But if you want to continue in this vein you're going to have to come to terms with the symbol that resembles figure eight on its side and, believe me, that ain't easy.

    M-L: Thanks for your comment. I assume this means you're decontaminated and that I can disobey Kaspersky AV's insistence that I hold you at arm's length.

    There are many other ways of acquiring a book. You could, for instance, borrow one from a friend, steal one or buy second-hand. You could, as you say, download from Kindle though in the terms I have laid out here - a newly published book - the reduction in price is not nearly as much as many people seem to think.

    The point about these other methods is that there's no immediate guarantee that you could get the book you want - this newly published book. With libraries, even after putting in a request, you might have to wait weeks or even months. Or you might be told that the library didn't intend to acquire that book. With more expensive non-fiction books - especially of the coffee-table variety (eg, art books) - this is ever more likely.

    There are similar variations in the other costing examples I have cited. You could choose to watch an opera via a DVD, your car could be bought second-hand. In order to show I was comparing apples with apples I decided to go for the most immediate form of acquisition in each case. This is often the most expensive.

    But I didn't want to explain all this in a 300-word post. The aim is to attract people to read not load them up with paragraphs of qualificatory detail. See how boring this re-comment has become.

    You will note that this post is Part One of a three-part series. In each case I try to dwell on aspects of reading that some readers may not have considered. Especially in Part Three where I'll be doing my best to avoid the predictable blah-blah about the rewards; looking perhaps for the unexpected rewards of reading.

    Remember that post some months ago in which I was seen walking uphill leading a bride by the hand. The text was about what I was wearing. You complained that you didn't want to know this, you wanted to know about the bride. I realised this, that's why I used that photo. You were the victim of a sort of shill, I fear. There are plenty of bloggers who write predictable stuff. Most of the time I let them have their way. I try desperately hard to be original. Often it offends. My apologies.

    If all this sounds as if I'm cheating or dodging the issue, take heart. It's always only 300 words with Tone Deaf and very few people have dropped down dead from boredom after 300 words. Irritation, perhaps.

  4. Robbie, thanks for the email and for mentioning it here that you haven't been able to see my blog for some time. It was down for a week at the end of June, early July due to supposed malware, and the time it took to have it cleared. Now I'm alarmed to learn that you are the second person who has told me they still can't access it. I wonder how many others? So sorry! I will let my technical support know .

    As for the answer to my question. yes, there are lots of considerations and no quick pat answers. Looking forward to the rest.

    I don't think I'm the one who made such a complaint. I think I asked if that was your daughter and may have complimented you both on your clothes. Of course the bride gets all the attention and that is as it should be.

  5. "Books", you might say with pride and justification, "I write them but don't read them".

  6. M-L: This was your comment to the bridal pic (which was in any case several years old at the time):

    You tease with talk of yourself when we want to know about this special event - is it your daughter you are so happily giving away in marriage? Do tell!

    As I say, you were the victim of a sort of shill. My understanding of the word being that a shill draws the unwary into some enterprise that usually turns out to be fraudulent. I fear I am untrustworthy in this and other ways; the reason: I'll do anything to be read. You'll be comforted by the fact there is a growing consensus towards this policy. Tone Deaf is well visited but fewer and fewer people leave comments. Classicists would call this a Pyrrhic victory; my mother would say I'm cutting off my nose to spite my face. I'm sure if she were still living (and blogging) she would be prepared to have several heart-to-hearts with you about her deeply unsatisfactory son.

    I was kept out of your site by my anti-virus software (Kaspersky). I have just checked again and despite the fact that I accessed your site yesterday the warning to stay away is still there.

    However Kaspersky does give me the option to pass through if I think the blocking "is in error". I did this again a few moments ago and again got the sheletal version of your blog (ie, no pix, no text). So the problem is, as I mentioned yesterday, twofold.

    As you asked, I have just Googled your name alone (how lucky you are to have a name that stands out; I struggle with my penny-plain surname) and again I got the Kaspersky warning and again I got the text-less, pic-less blog.

  7. I've just been writing a bit about reading, I hadn't read this at that point.

    I can't bring myself to pay proper book prices on the Kindle; it offends me somewhat that e-books usually aren't cheaper than print ones, unless they're out of copyright. Some writers, such as yourself, do manage to make them cheaper, PoD books from people like Blurb are cheaper to order, so I don't see why they can't always be.

    In fact I try to avoid paying much for books at all if I can help it, since there are so many cheaper options, but I suppose I'm just stingy. I take your point about reading not necessarily being a frugal activity, yet I am of the conviction that staying at home reading does save money (- though then again there are the heating costs...), since as soon as one ventures out of doors, it seems to me, one can be parted from one's cash. Staying at home browsing the internet one can also be parted from one's cash, of course, sometimes with a single click.

    Also interesting that non-experimental fiction works out more expensive, in effect, a good reason to read difficult books, I suppose. But that brings in the question of just how entertaining the entertainment actually is.

    Good to be made to look at things differently though, rather like a book I read a review of recently about the real risks in modern life, where they conceived of a unit of risk of death which could be applied universally. Childbirth, riding a motor bike from London to Edinburgh and back, and two days military service in Afghanistan all carry about the same number of units, it seems. Sadly I've forgotten what they called the unit, which was something quite clever or indeed the title and authors of the book.

    I look forward to further instalments.

  8. (I meant PoD e-books from Blurb etc are cheaper.)

  9. Lucy: Part two, which mainly consists of questions, and was written before you posted this comment, runs in parallel with several of the points you raise here.

    Yes, reading keeps you indoors but heating costs cannot be attributable since if you are cold while reading one assumes you'd be cold doing anything else. However, how do you feel about being kept indoors on a fine summer's day when Mol is looking at you pleadingly. Theoretically a walk with the dog costs nothing but you are not allowing for the possibility of change which may bring about expenditure. And might continued periods of self-inflicted parsimony be bad for your soul? Spending isn't after all one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

    Reading as entertainment. This is a part answer to the question: Why read? Not yet asked. Am I right in saying that the amount of time spent reading for instruction is no more than 2% of the total. Natalie says she reads technical manuals for pleasure but may be hinting at the rugged poetry available in a booklet devoted to programming a mobile phone.

    Being made to look at things differently. Exposed to perpetual non-change I've always feared slipping from life into death without knowing it was happening. A consummation devoutly to be desired, no doubt, but distressingly passive. Am I totally romantic in wishing to be accorded a hoarse bellow at the very least?