I want to say you can buy, for example, three e-books buy exactly the same amount of money which you have to pay to buy a single paper book; Is it correct to say it like this?

You can buy, for example, three e-books at the cost of a single paper book?

If yes, is it idiomatic or there are better ways to express it?


I would say that it's not correct. "At the cost of" normally indicates what one loses. (In your sentence, you don't lose the physical book by buying the e-books; you just lose some money that could instead have been used to buy a physical book.) And what's more, "at the cost of" is usually figurative, rather than denoting an actual purchase or exchange; for example, "He achieved his goal, but at the cost of his health" means that his health suffered as a result of his pursuit of his goal.

Instead, you can either say "for the price of" or (as skullpatrol suggests) you can use the word same: "for the same price as", "for the same cost as", "at the same cost as", etc. (Personally, I still find price preferable, but cost is quite correct.)

(The preposition at can also be used with price, but in this case it would make it sound like there is a specific price for a set of three e-books. To use at with price, you would need to rework the sentence a bit: "You can buy an e-book at [or for] one-third the price of a paper book.")

  • 1
    Will it be easier to grasp as compared to 'one-third the price of' if one says that he bought three e-books for the price of one paper book?
    – user11470
    Dec 13 '14 at 9:15
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    I've just recollected that there is an expression "at cost price" i.e. one buys books at cost price, but not at selling price. The cost price is composed of costs incurred by a seller to produce a product. I wonder whether 'at the cost of' somehow means the cost price.
    – user11470
    Dec 13 '14 at 9:33
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    I'm not sure I agree with this answer. I thought the O.P.'s original wording was understandable and idiomatic. That said, I agree with the suggested improvements – I just don't know if I'd go so far as to deem the original "not correct". Also, the word cost can be used for price; I don't agree that it "normally indicates what one loses."
    – J.R.
    Dec 13 '14 at 11:17
  • @snail - I think both words can be used in both ways. (For example: They won the battle, but at a terrible price.) Of course we can use cost for abstract things like health – but it's not limited to that usage.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13 '14 at 11:27
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    @Humbulani - Those are valid ways the word cost can be used, but it can also be used with of, when speaking of prices. Here are some examples.
    – J.R.
    Dec 13 '14 at 14:03

You can buy, for example, three e-books at the cost of a single paper book.

means "If you have a single paper book, you can trade it for three e-books."

The following sentence means what you intended:

You can buy, for example, three e-books for the cost of a single paper book.


I would say you can

buy three e-books for the same price as one paper book

but your wording does make sense.


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