Sunday, February 15, 2009

By the Foot

About a month ago, I mentioned that, pound for pound, the rather expensive but also rather hefty Case Study Houses book I bought a while ago was actually less expensive than most other books. As an example, I chose Man in the Dark by Paul Auster, for which I paid $21.95 a pound -- not exactly a bargain when compared with the $8.40 per pound for the Case Study Houses book.

As far as I know, the option of buying books by the pound is as of yet unavailable to the book-buying public. However, you may be interested to know that you can buy books by the foot.

This service is intended for interior decorators who want to add warmth to a room by stocking it with books, but as far as I know, anyone can buy books in this manner, as long as they aren't too particular about the books they're buying, because they don't get to chose the titles. According to one web site I looked at, buying books by the foot is not only an ideal way to give a room a particular look, but also an inexpensive way to create an instant library, ideal for retirement homes and vacation homes.

You can buy complete sets, such as law books and professional books, you can buy modern cloth hardback books in various colors, you can buy vintage books to help give your room an antique charm, and you can buy cloth hardbacks of a particular color, including earth tones.

The price ranges from $6.99 to $39.99 per linear foot on the web site I saw, and for some selections there's a minimum order of two feet, but there might be other places where you can buy books by the foot as well.

By the way, at the beginning of this post I said that, pound for pound, the Case Study Houses book is a better deal, but did you ever wonder about that expression "pound for pound"? According to Wikipedia, it was originally a boxing term, used to compare two fighters in different weight classes. But since then, its use has broadened to the point that it's now a way to compare any two things without regard to the actual quantities of the two things being compared.

So, when we say that pound for pound, the Case Study Houses book is less expensive than Auster's Man in the Dark, we mean that a pound of the Case Study Houses book costs less than a pound of the Paul Auster book.

It makes perfect sense, but I think I'm more inclined to use the phrase "dollars per pound" in this particular case. However, in the United Kingdom, where the unit of currency is the pound and the unit of weight used to be the pound (before they switched to the metric system), both the expressions "pound for pound" and "pounds per pound" could have been used, although I doubt if the second one ever was because it sounds so stupid.

But here's an interesting little fact you might not be aware of: Even though the United Kingdom's conversion to the metric system was completed in 1995, the use of the Imperial system is still mandated in some cases. To quote from Wikipedia, "draught beer must be sold in pints, road-sign distances must be in yards and miles, road-sign clearance heights must be in feet and inches (although an equivalent in metres may be shown as well) and road speed limits must be in miles per hour."

So, as I said, that's an interesting little fact, and I don't know if there are any other examples of things that have to use the Imperial system, but I think books in the United Kingdom would probably be sold by the meter.