Reading a book takes time.
The time you spend reading a book is not spent doing something else.
Opportunity cost: (source)
Benefit, profit, or value of something that must be given up to acquire or achieve something else. Since every resource (land, money, time, etc.) can be put to alternative uses, every action, choice, or decision has an associated opportunity cost.
Does it sound obvious? Lately, however, I’ve made a few such mistakes with respect to some books I bought.
Atlas Shrugged has been recommended many times, by many different people. Consequently, it raised above my threshold of consciousness and I had decided to buy it, read it and reach my own conclusions about it.
I have been to Chapters and I had remembered about Atlas Shrugged. Of course, it was in the shelves and I looked through it. What sealed the deal was the price: $10! How could I go wrong?!
Where did I go wrong?
It could have been an audio book.
I’m writing this with the book on my lap. It stands at 1069 pages in something that feels like 6-pt font. More so than other books I’ve had, I will feel the impact of the time invested in reading it. Even in audio, Atlas Shrugged stands tall with 63 hours of narration.1
I bought the physical book with good intentions. However, it has been gathering dust for a while now. I wondered when, if ever, I would have enough time to decide to read it.
If only I had bought it in audio format. But it was too late now… I had already bought it in paper format. Buying the audio book meant paying “twice”. There was something very unpleasant about that thought.
Then, a few days ago, I realized that the $15 it would cost me to buy the audio book was not completely lost.
It meant that I could spend the time I listened to the book doing other things: dishes, chores, exercising. It meant I could start the book right away, instead of some perfect moment in the future, because I could do other things at the same time.
Am I happy that I paid twice? No. But the total cost of the book, $25 ($10 paper + $15 audio), must be contrasted against the time I just saved by not having to sit down while reading.
I have a few other books with which I will have to repeat this process. Uncle Tom’s Cabin comes to mind. That was another “cheap” book I bought in the spur of the moment. I’m learning this lesson about the total cost of a book.
- I have been buying audio books for a while. Duration is the closest thing to an absolute measure of the “bigness” of a book that I have found. While printed books can play with font size, line spacing, margin and other things to fit the content in different formats, most narration are done in predictable speed.