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Significant Digits for Monday, Dec. 29, 2014
You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news.


The fee self-published authors received in November for one digital “borrow” of their book on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. The all-you-can-read service, which costs $9.99 per month, has reportedly hurt writers who rely on the e-commerce giant for income. For standard ebook sales, Amazon typically gives writers 70 percent of a book’s earnings. [New York Times]

50 minute drive

How far a Twitter user drove on Christmas to get into an offline fight with another Twitter user over Kobe Bryant. Because one party in the argument was remotely rational, the fight did not occur. [SB Nation]

440 letters of support

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who was convicted on public corruption charges in September, has amassed 440 letters of support from former colleagues, friends and family members seeking leniency at his Jan. 6 sentencing. McDonnell could face more than ten years in prison, but his attorneys — and supporters — are hoping for a community service sentence. In one letter, McDonnell’s daughter Caitlin blamed the crimes that led to her father’s downfall on her mother. [Washington Post]

510 pardons

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced 105 pardons on Christmas Day, mostly for people convicted of minor drug offenses. Brown has given out 510 pardons since he took office in 2011. The three governors who preceded him in office granted a combined 29 pardons over 20 years. [Los Angeles Times]

1,175 civilians

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that in the past six months the Islamic State has killed 1,175 civilians. In addition, the group has killed 120 of its own members, mostly foreign fighters seeking to return home. [Al Jazeera]

1,434 Wal-Marts

Minimum wage hikes in 21 states will affect base salaries at roughly one-third of Wal-Mart’s stores. Employees in South Dakota will see the biggest jump, as the state raised the minimum 17 percent to $8.50 per hour. I’m going to assume this means I can once again shop at Wal-Mart guilt-free. [Reuters]

58,000 college students

That’s the estimate from Free Application for Federal Student Aid data for the number of homeless college students in the United States during the 2012-2013 academic year. [The Huffington Post]

$15 million

How much “The Interview,” which was released on video-on-demand streaming services Tuesday afternoon, made through Saturday. The film also earned $2.8 million in 300 theaters. The film — in which the guys from “Pineapple Express” try to kill North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — was downloaded more than 2 million times. The budget for the film was about $40 million, so hopefully Sony has learned the valuable lesson about fronting money to potheads that the rest of us learned in college. [Variety, Huffington Post]

$48 million, 6 years

The rumored contract Jim Harbaugh, who just parted ways with the San Francisco 49ers, will sign to coach the University of Michigan football team. If confirmed, the contract would make Harbaugh the highest-paid college football coach in the country. It’s unclear when Harbaugh will go to Michigan, but — knowing San Franciscans — I can say it’s entirely dependent on when Uber surge pricing ends. [Bleacher Report]


Starting with $1,000 on Jan. 1, that’s how much money someone would have had by Dec. 23 if they had played the stock market perfectly in 2014. Granted, this kind of performance is infinitesimally unlikely — basically alternate-timeline Biff Tannen levels of financial decision-making — but assuming an investor picked the best performing stock of the S&P 500 each day, they could’ve become the richest person on earth in mid-December. Better luck next year. [Quartz]

If you see a significant digit out in the wild, tweet it to me @WaltHickey.

Walt Hickey was FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.