Warning. The following narrative is a complete waste of time. But itís fun too, so I thought I would share. Proceed with caution.
For a while now I have adopted a theory about the value of a dollar as it relates to entertainment. Iíve often asked myself if the money I spend on video games and other entertainment is well spent or not. I mean, I enjoy these activities, but are certain things a better value than others? How does going to the movies compare to video games? What about miniature golf? Etc, etc.
Thinking about this, Iíve developed a theory. $5 equals 1 hour of entertainment. A lot of options are pretty close to this ratio. Movies are around $7.50, and usually run an hour and a half. Thus $5 per hour. Miniature golf usually runs around $8.00 and takes about an hour to play (longer if thereís a lot of people on the course). Thatís a bit higher than the $5 per hour standard, but itís in the ball park. On the flip side, bowling usually runs a little less than the benchmark. And so on. You get the idea.
Of course a bad movie isnít much of a deal even if itís less than $5 an hour. So there are two components here, what you have to spend and how entertained you are about the material. For this discussion, Iíll assume that the material is good stuff. And I should point out that there are certain activities that are really expensive and blow the benchmark out of the water. Things like going to a ball game, going to a concert, or seeing a musical (I have a wife, so yes, occasionally I have to do this). I think of these things as separate than the usual entertainment options. I may do 2 to 4 of these things a year (maybe) and Iím basically giving away the entertainment dollar value in exchange for a somewhat unique experience. At least thatís what I tell myself.
Anyway, I want to tie this theory to the iPad. Looking at the base model at $499, how much entertainment would it take to make the device a break-even proposition? This is assuming that the entertainment itself does not come with an additional cost. Check this out:
Classics are free. It usually takes me about 6 hours to read a 360 page paperback. Thatís a $30 value! Note that slower readers get more value. Also, $30 is about right for a hardcover novel Ė think of what a steal a soft cover is! Conclusion: if you read 17 books on the device, you will have gone past the break-even point.
Here I am assuming you already have a Netflix account (thus no incremental cost). Letís stick with the assumption that a movie goes for an hour and a half. Conclusion: you would need to watch 67 movies to reach the break-even point. Yikes! Thatís a lot. But if you like movies, hell, why not!
Again, assuming you have Netflix, or really love ABC, the entertainment is effectively free. A TV show usually runs around 22 minutes if itís a half hour show, and an hour show usually runs about twice that. Letís just assume a 30 minute average to keep the numbers simple. Conclusion: you would need to watch 200 episodes to reach the break-even point. That seems like a lot, but consider this: a normal season of a show will run around 25 episodes. So you only need to watch 8 seasons worth of shows to cover the costs. Thatís do-able. In fact, I do that way too much. Thank you, Family Guy.
Here itís a simple equation. You need to log in 100 hours of gaming to reach the magical point. Thatís hard for any type of pick-up-and-go game like 10-pin bowling. But if you hook up with a strategy or RPG game, you can reach that mark with some intense play time with just a few games, perhaps 10. Note that nerds and geeks have a tremendous opportunity to grab value here.
And any combination of the above would work as well, of course. It takes a lot of use to justify the cost of the iPad, but not an unrealistic amount of use. So my conclusion is that the iPad is a viable entertainment alternative when it comes to your entertainment dollar. Of course if you pay for content, that will make it harder to reach the value point, but apps are so cheap the goal will always be in reach. eReading is the greatest value, and probably the most rewarding anyway, so iBooks (along with the other apps like Kindle, etc.) holds the greatest value. And it helps to be a slow-reading nerd.