I was on vacation in Mexico last week. On the way there and back we had somewhat long layovers in Dallas…. and what’s a good trip to the airport without a stroll through the bookstore to load up on reading materials? The things is I love books but am not crazy about bookstore prices. It seems I’m inspired to buy a book at exactly the most expensive moment. I can’t stand the idea of paying full price for a hard cover book, particularly when I could have prepared by checking out a book from the library or buying from Amazon.
For some reason or another — perhaps the same reason that I write this blog — I became consumed with identifying the cheapest reading materials. I delved into the world of media statistics to help to uncover whether newspapers, magazines, or books stretch your budget the farthest.
Approaching the problem
The first way I looked at the problem was by researching the average number of words and price of each type of media and computed the subsequent cost per 1000 words. It turns out that a newspaper is by far the cheapest thing to read per word, whereas hardback books are the most expensive. But who reads every single word in a newspaper? That would take 5 hours, assuming you read at 250 words per minute.
|Pages||Words per Page||Avg. Price||$ per 1000 words||Minutes to Read|
A more sensible approach
I estimated how long it would truly take to read each option. The only data point I could verify was that magazines take 43 minutes to read on average, according to a trade organization. If you look at the problem this way, a paperback is the cheapest, followed closely by hardbacks and newspapers. Magazines are still the outlier and expensive compared to the rest.
|Minutes||Price||Cost per Minute|
As I suspected, we’re throwing our money away by buying magazines at airport news stands. They are a lot more fun to read but you’re paying for all those glossy pages and full color pictures. If you’re taking a short flight, buy a couple newspapers; if you’ve got a longer flight, perhaps buy a paperback as well.
A business idea
I have a business idea (or non-profit) that would be a real value add for travelers. Imagine there were airport kiosks where you could exchange books and magazines that you’re finished reading. Say you’re coming off your flight, you could swing by and drop off your reading material. Got a connection — trade out your book for new ones. Showed up at the airport without anything to read? Donate $1 to get something to read. The kiosks could also offer bottled water at distinctly non-airport prices. The operation would be mostly supported by voluntary donations. Hopefully the donations would be enough to cover rent and one employee. What do you think?