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The Entertainment Dollar and the iPad


iPF Noob
Apr 17, 2010
Reaction score
Martinez, CA
Warning. The following narrative is a complete waste of time. But it’s 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. I’ve 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, I’ve 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 there’s a lot of people on the course). That’s a bit higher than the $5 per hour standard, but it’s 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 isn’t much of a deal even if it’s 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, I’ll 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 I’m basically giving away the entertainment dollar value in exchange for a somewhat unique experience. At least that’s 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. That’s a $30 value! Note that slower readers get more value. Also, $30 is about right for a hardcover novel – 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.

Watching Movies
Here I am assuming you already have a Netflix account (thus no incremental cost). Let’s 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! That’s a lot. But if you like movies, hell, why not!

Watching TV
Again, assuming you have Netflix, or really love ABC, the entertainment is effectively free. A TV show usually runs around 22 minutes if it’s a half hour show, and an hour show usually runs about twice that. Let’s 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. That’s do-able. In fact, I do that way too much. Thank you, Family Guy.

Here it’s a simple equation. You need to log in 100 hours of gaming to reach the magical point. That’s 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.

The Big Finale
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.​
Mossman, I found that to be an entertaining read, it was worth the time/value ratio lol. That's an interesting way to look at the cost and justification of an iPad. I think it's a pretty good theory you've worked up.

For me personally, being the gadget geek that I am and what I spend on accessories, books, and apps, I don't know if Ill ever make progress towards that goal, or just keep putting time in chasing the cost that's running away.

However, I have already gotten more value out of this device than any other purchase I can think of in this price range as far as enjoyment and overall usefulness. I spent way more on my exgirlfriend and she wasn't nearly as fun to be around. My new girlfriend however, can put out A LOT of value for the cost of a movie or takeout.
Yeah, I think most of us will actually be chasing that break-even point as we buy more and more apps and accessories for the iPad. It's a nice thought just to think that maybe we could reach that magical point, even though we may never actually hit the mark.
I got my entertainment value from this post. Now I only need to read like a million more like it and my iPad has paid for itself! :)

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