Which costs more, a book or a movie ticket?

The typical American read

The average new book costs $10.86, with 2.57B new books sold for $27.9B. The average used book costs about $3, with 1B used books sold for $3B. Combining new and used books we get 3.57B books for $31B, or $8.68 per book (new + used), a bit more than the average $8.38 movie ticket.

On a hourly basis, books are cheaper. With the average book at 64,000 words, and the average person reading at 250 words per minute, that’s $8.68 for about 4.3 hours, or $2.01 per hour of reading, less than half the $4.90 per hour for movies in theatres.

However the $2/hour rate ignores two key items, borrowed books and unread books. Only 48% of people bought their most recent book.

Book source

Adding in 3B (1.5B from public libraries + 1.5B from family and school libraries) borrowed books we get 6.6B books per year or 22.8 per reader. Apparently only half of these 22.8 (11.4) are read.

[A bit below Pew’s estimate of 12.3 books (15 reduced by the 18% of people Pew says read zero books) and a bit above Bain’s 10.3 (see below)], we’re down to 3.3B books read, or $2.17/hour.

In any case, with $31B spent by 280M readers, that’s $110 per year per reader, or $9 per month. for 1 book and ~4 hours of book reading per reader per month.

Question: Which costs more, books or movies?
Answer: It depends:

  • One book ($8.68) costs more than one movie ($8.38)
  • Per hour books are less than half the cost of movies ($2/hour versus almost $5)
  • Overall we spend 3x more on books, $31B for book versus only $10B for movie tickets, or (per person) $9/month for books, $3/month for movies.

More book stats:

Bain estimates 10.3 books (7.3 physical, 3.0 digital) per year


3 thoughts on “Which costs more, a book or a movie ticket?

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