There’s an interesting article about the Apple App Store. Evidently, you could buy (a copy) of every app in the App store for a total of only about $1.3 million.
Is that a low number? There are 750,000-odd apps, but I don’t think that’s a relevant distinction. Instead, let’s consider other categories, and what it would take to buy one of everything.
In 2010, there were 316,480 books published by traditional publishing companies in the United States, and 2.2 million world-wide. Let’s assume an average retail price of say $25 (completely pulling this out of my ass). So, for me to purchase one of every book released in a year would be on the order of $50 million. There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of books written and released (e.g. 100 years ago, the total number of books released was on the order of 9000). But it’s still likely that to buy one of every book for all time would be many hundreds of millions of dollars.
I could be high-balling this, because many books are either released in countries where prices are low, or are available in mass-market editions. But I think a good floor would still be $10 million for “buy one of every book printed in a year), and $100 million for “buy one of every book written”.
Movies and TV
I saw a figure for 2007 that said around 2500 movies worldwide. Let’s round it up for progress, and let’s say I could buy a copy of each one for $30 (many movies are not available for purchase). So I could buy a copy of every movie made in a year for a paltry $75,000. There just aren’t that many movies made.
There’s no easy statistics for TV shows. As of 2010, there were 4,728 television broadcasters, and the estimate is of tens of thousands of TV shows just for the United States. And this is an area where there are many more TV shows in other countries. I’m going to say that probably a million hours of TV content is generated every year. If I could buy it on DVD for $50/25 hours (a guess/average based on what I see released), then I could buy a year’s worth of TV for $2 million.
Discounting iPhone (because that was accounted for in the App store numbers above), and ignoring Android for now.
How many console and desktop video games are released in a year? Maybe a thousand? This is actually pretty easy to back into – take the size of the video game industry in dollars, get the average budget for a game, divide, and presto, there’s your number (sans profit, which is pretty low overall, some games make a lot of profit, many games run at a loss). A thousand would mean the average budget for a game is $30 million; this is too high. So let’s just say 10,000 for now, although that’s certainly too high. Let’s say the average price is $60 (which is also high, lots of Gameboy games cost closer to $35). I could buy one of each game made in the past year for around $600,000. Lifetime, there are likely on the order of 150,000 games that have been made.
I’ll have to finish this exercise at some point. It’s interesting to consider the cost of information, because all of the things I’ve mentioned have very low marginal costs, unlike say a refrigerator or a car. The marginal cost for an app from the App store is fractions of a penny (the cost of transmitting a copy to your iDevice), unlike the marginal cost for a car, which is thousands of dollars.
In fact, the marginal cost for an eBook is so close to zero that it might as well be zero. The marginal cost for a large game or a movie is higher, but it’s still significantly less than $1, more like about $0.10 to $0.25 at current costs. One hour of TV has a marginal cost of probably $0.10, but I could be off slightly.