The Price Of A Book

If a book sells for $15, is that the true cost of the book? No. The real world is much more complex.

Book Prices

The true cost of a book is not just the price of the book. The true value of a book can be measured in ROI, but don't expect to ever know the true ROI of any book. Don't bee fooled, these things are just too complex for our primate brains.

22. April 2024 by Click insider / Wisdom & Knowledge

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A book is priced at $15, shipping and handling included. This is the price you pay, the money you hand over to the book seller.

You spend 15 hours reading it, including the time it takes to sit down, get cozy, get ready and read. You earn on average $150 an hour, or this is a hourly rate you have given yourself.

Reading a book takes time, and time is money. 15 times $150 is $2250.

Plus $15, that's $2265. This is the expenses, or rather one in many ways to calculate the true cost of investing time and money in a book. The price of the actual book is in most cases a fraction of the actual expense.

But expenses are only half the picture. You need not only look at the cost of something, but also the value. What you get for what you pay, or rather, the return on your investment.

Price And Value Of Books

The price of books. Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. Calculating the price of a book can be done as above, or in some other way. There are many ways, different ways, none are "more" correct. There are different calculations, different methods of doing things. All methods are eventually wrong, but some are useful.

The value of books. What's the value of reading the book? How do you calculate the value of this? Too complex! You won't be able to do nail down something close to the actual value, not even a rough estimate. Might as well go with gut feeling. You felt like the book was a waste of time? Then value is zero, or actually negative, you made a loss on this investment. The book was enjoyable? Informative? Life-changing? Value is subjective, and gut feeling or something similar might be just as correct as using "rational metrics". Furthermore, some books you read for entertainment, some for informative value, some for attaining skills, or something else.

Price can be calculated, although different methods can be used. Objective value cannot really be calculated at all, as value is subjective to the core.

Basically, we're trying to subtract a subjective valuation from an objective calculation. These are the kinds of problems you will encounter when doing ROI calculations for books. But for now we're going to ignore the fact that this is a totally futile exercise, and do it anyways. Calculating ROI for books isn't hard or difficult, it's impossible, and it's stupid. Stupid is what stupid does. You're a primate, don't expect too much of yourself.

Opportunity Cost of Reading Books

Then there is opportunity cost.

Derivative works. Could you read the summary of the book for free, in less than an hour? If so, the book has negative value and ideally should not exist in your world. Perhaps it has real value to others, but for you, the summary is sufficient and even better than the real thing. You'd benefit from using the derivative work, this is true for you, but might not be the case for others.

Better usage of time. Could you do something else with your time and money? Could you spend $15, or $2265, or 15 hours on something else, and get a higher ROI? The returns need not be money, could be measured in enjoyment as well, or something else. These calculations can be as simplified or as complex as you'd like, but this is another loop inside the ROI, and you could calculate the ROI on calculating your ROI into infinity.

Buying a book is not just about the book price. It's about what you get in return.

The problem is, you don't know the actual ROI after reading the book. In fact, you might never know the actual ROI for any book. A book could change your life, for better or worse, just slightly or to the extreme.

Hidden Impacts of Books

Positive ROI. A book could improve your life. It could provide the knowledge you need to secure your wealth, or to 10X your capital, or in some other ways make your life better.

Negative ROI. A book could 10x your capital, but this resulting in unforeseen consequences, and before you know it there's this spiral of depression, losing focus, losing capital, suicidal thoughts.

Thoughts and ideas can and will impact your life.

Sometimes we can understand the consequences, or we think we can understand. But every consequence has their own consequences and that's the complexity of the world.

Any idea you get may have a positive or negative impact on your life. Any additional knowledge or skill you gain can be good or bad. Gaining some skill or knowledge has their own attributes, their own opportunity costs. There is so much to learn and know, so many skills to aquire, but time is a limited resource.

Absolute Positive ROI

Immediate return on investment is only the initial gratification. Like eating candy or taking a drug, it can be great, but as time passes there will be a greater negative impact outweighing the initial positive effect. You can benefit from getting hurt. Consider short term and long term pros and cons, but don't expect to have the cognitive ability to calculate the actualities of the matter. Bad can turn into good, or the reverse. Your life can spiral downwards as a result of some initial positive event, or the opposite.

If you are interested in adding something to life, making life better, then reading books can be great, or not. You will only benefit if you derive an absolute positive ROI from these books. But you will never be able to calculate the actual absolute ROI, not even a close estimate. All you are left with is the feeling of this absolute ROI, and all you're left with after the exercise of this calculation is just sensation, an irrational derivative of your perceived rational effort.

The Best Book To Read Right Now

Advice? None given. The point is that it's really hard, impossible even, to find books that will positively contribute to your life.

What is the best book you could read right now? We don't know, and you don't know. Pick one, or read two or more at once.

You could read Amazon reviews, listen to suggestions from friends, take book recommendations from people you respect and admire, but in the end only time will tell if these books actually had a positive impact on your life. Actually, don't expect time to reveal anything, because the world is too complex, and as a primate you are not really capable of distilling the causes and the effects of such things. The brain cannot properly understand itself.

So the next time you're trying to rationalize the price of a book, realize that this task too complex to to deal with considering your very limited cognitive capabilities.

The Sum of Books

One plus one is two in math, but math is math. Reading one book, then reading another book, is not the same as reading two books. The two books might have overlapping ideas, they might generate new ideas that are not present in any of the books.

Read a set of books, and the returned value is not just the value gained from reading each book individually. The total set of books have a value of its own.

If you consider the ROI of reading just one book, without considering how reading this book relates to the current set of read books, and future sets of unread books, you're not making a complete calculation. But you won't be able to do a complete calculation anyways.

Reading a book, exposing yourself to ideas, and thinking itself, has ramifications. The value of formerly read books can increase from reading new books.

Re-read Books

Sometimes you choose to re-read books.

But they say you can't cross the same river twice. In this context, you can't read the same book more than once. The words are unchanged, but the state of mind will never be the same the next time around. This proves the point, a book is not just the physical thing it's printed on, or the digital storage space allocated to it, and not even the text of the book.

A book or a text is a different thing for different people. There's objective reality and subjective experiences. What are books? They are objective things providing subjective experiences, but let's not digress too much into philosophical tawk.

The Art of Book Investing

Choose a book, read it, and then you might know if it was worth the investment. Or maybe you won't, because the actual value of the book can manifest itself in your life later. Or you are incapable of understanding the actual impact of the book.

Books have different impacts on different people. The right book for you now was not the same book as the one a few months back, and the right book now is not the right book in the future.

Try picking a book based on rationale. What is the best book to read right now? What are the problems you want to solve in your life? What would be the most enjoyable book to read right now? This exercise will never never conclude, but you might find something interesting to read.

Try selecting a book to read, based on some irrational metric. "Because your friend said it was good/was crap". "Because you liked the cover". "Because...". Some of your best decisions ever might have been based on rational reasoning, and some might have been rooted in irrational thinking. We're not capable of just deciding everything based on rational decision making.

Should you invest X of your time and money on that book?

The rational answer will always be:

You don't know.

The Price of Free

It's been said that if you're not paying for a product, you are the product. That could be the case, or not.

What's always the case, is that there is a price for everything you act upon.

It's free. You did not spend anything on reading this. Meaning, no money out of pocket. It was free. Excluding the cost of electricity, the cost of energy needed to cognitively process the information, and such.

Free isn't really free. Time is money, and you invested your time in reading this. Was it worth it? Hopefully this will provide an absolute positive ROI to our readers, but more likely this text will be a waste of time for some readers, and beneficial to others.

For some, perhaps for just one reader, this text will be extremely beneficial, resulting in life-changing behavior. For others, this text may have been a distraction, and a million-dollar idea was totally forgotten in the process of reading this.

Don't read free books because they are free. Don't avoid paying for stuff because they cost money.

The true price of anything must be measured against the true value of the thing. But again, that's calculus impossibles, the totality of the measurement is based on the totalilty of life. Might as well embrace your inherent irrationality and enjoy the bliss of ignorance.

Seek Knowledge, Gain Wisdom

By all means, seek knowledge, but don't be surprised if you one day happen to gaze into the mother of all illusions. As you encounter this unfamiliar and terrifying darkness, you'll become self-aware of your complete lack of knowledge, and ironically, in this very moment you will encounter a strange sensation, something of valuable insight never experienced before.

A map previously clear and vivid will again be covered in black spots, but your current map is now more accurate than it has ever been, and with this new wisdom you truly re-engage with the world. Life is a mystery. It always has been. For a moment, you just forgot.

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