The Decline and Fall of a Good Read

May 10, 2010

RAY: This was sent by Ted Getchman and the answer may be controversial. I'm going to say that in advance, and I'm prepared to take the heat. Well, Ted and I are.

He writes, "Recently I had a hankering to read Edward Gibbons' three-volume set, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, no small undertaking considering there are exactly 2,500 pages of text and illustrations in each volume.

"Sadly, as I reached for them on the shelf I could see that mold had damaged every page and cover from the front of volume 1, though that cover was undamaged, to the back cover of volume 3, though it too was undamaged."

TOM: And everything in between was mold.

RAY: "I called the local book repairer and he said that it would cost a penny a page and fifty cents a cover to repair. He says, 'Bring the affected volumes over and come back in a week, I'll be all done.'

'So I show up in a week prepared to pay the bill, and it's about half of what I expected it to be."

The statement that it was half is a hint. The question is how much was the repair?

Answer: 
RAY: The answer is $13.50. All that was damaged was volume 2, which is the volume in the middle. You have volume 1 sitting on the shelf to the left. Volume 2 is next to it on the right. And volume 3 is even further to the right.

Now remember, Ted said as he reached for them on the shelf he could see that mold had damaged every page and cover from the front of volume 1, though that cover was undamaged, to the back cover of volume 3, though that too was undamaged. So as the books are placed on the shelf, the cover of volume 1 is the closest thing of volume 1 to volume 2.

TOM: Yah. It's on the right side when you put it in there.

RAY: Exactly. And the back cover of volume 3 is on the left side, it is also the closest thing to volume 2.

TOM: So it's only volume 2 that's affected. Son of a gun.

RAY: So if you go to your bookshelf and look at three books and imagine they're labeled volume 1, volume 2, volume 3, you'll see that the book in the middle is the only one that was damaged by the mold, and there were two covers damaged. Right? Those two covers, the front and back cover of volume 2.

And the reason it was $13.50 was that even though there were 2500 printed pages, there were only 1250 pages of actual paper, because there's printing on both sides. So it's only a penny apiece to clean each page. And two covers, right, 50 cents apiece, $13.50.

TOM: Phew!

RAY: So who's our winner, man?

TOM: Our winner this week is Jennifer Milrang from Castle Shannon, Pennsylvania, and for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Jennifer is going to get a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com, with which she can get a set of four reusable Car Talk shopping bags.

RAY: Congratulations, Jennifer!

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