If you are anything like me, you like books. Really like books. Can read them with the same voracious appetite that some people reserve for chocolate. Amazon and its sister company Audible have a few memberships that if used effectively allow you to feed the addiction while minimizing the strain on your wallet. Here are few tips I’ve discovered on how to use them to your advantage.
Kindle Unlimited: The books lover’s equivalent to Netflix and Hulu, Kindle Unlimited is a monthly subscription based program that offers members access to thousands of titles. Members may “check out” up to ten books at any one time. Once you’re finished with it, the book can be returned with one click from your Amazon account and new one can take its place in the rental list. The program does have some limitations such as most of the books are from the ranks of independent publishers. While there are some big name authors participating, as a recent look through the Amazon research results shows that Harry Potter and Margret Atwood’s Handmaiden’s Tale are enrolled in the KU library, most novels from the big publishers are not included.
While I’m sure subscription services love it when you don’t use or rarely use the product you are paying for, ineffective usage is not money well spent. When on an Amazon crawl, I usually assign interesting looking titles to my wish list so that I can remember to circle back to them, especially if they come from an author or series that I am unfamiliar with. Once the list is big enough, I revisit it to see how many books are part of KU. The product listing will say prominently that subscribers read for free if it is. Once I’ve found enough material to justify the price of admission, I may enroll for a month or two at a time, committing to give KU books priority during that period. This is a low risk way to explore some new authors, genres, and series or to follow up with authors that I consider “library reads.” I like them enough to read them if the opportunity presents itself but I’m not interested in owning a copy forever.
If you find that your free time is likely to be scarce for a time or your favorite authors from the big publishing houses are demanding your reading time, don’t forget to unsubscribe at least one day in advance of your next billing date. You can unsubscribe and re-enroll with the click of a button as needed so there is no need to let your membership roll if you are not going to use it.
Audible: Audio books are a perfect way for a book lover to sneak in a little more story-time while on the go. You can listen in your car on the way to work, around the house while cleaning and cooking or at the gym. However, they are usually quite costly. Audible offers a monthly membership in which subscribers commit to a payment plan in exchange for credits. They have options that range from a rolling fee for one or two credits each month to more expensive plans where members pay semi-annually or annually for many tokens all at once. The credits can be exchanged for the books in the Audible catalogue.
Membership also has other benefits such as members only sales where a selection of books is offered at a deeply discounted price, a 30% discount is automatically taken off the list price, and limited time offers where an audio book is made temporarily free. The deep discount sales alone make membership worth it to me as they happen every other month, the selection is usually extensive and varied enough that I can find familiar favorites or something interesting and new, and the sale prices range between $4.99 and $7.99, making the normally expensive audio versions even cheaper than the physical editions.
Effective usage of credits is key. The prime thing to remember about the subscription is to figure out how much you are paying per credit. This should include the tax. Use that as your base line and tell yourself that an audio book has to cost at least this much to use a credit on it. While most audio books are pricey, there are some that have a surprisingly low list price. For example, if the book has $10.49 list price and a $7.34 membership price, this not the book to use a credit on as you would be paying Audible more money with the credit than they are asking for. You should just pay out of wallet for cheaper audio books or put it in your wish list and wait for a sale. Audible usually runs a store-wide 50% off sale at least twice a year and if a book in your list is included in one of their randomized title sales, they will send out an email alert.
Using them both together: Amazon has a feature called Whispersynch to promote synergy between text and audio. The idea is that you can buy both the Kindle version of a title and add the audio at a reduced price so you can read in your e-reader, listen to it while on the go, and then pick up the text version again in the evening without losing your place at any time. The Whispersynch discount can be as low as $1.99 so it can make perfect economic sense to buy the Kindle version to get the discount on the audio version. Proper research is key before committing to buy. Some audio books do not get a discount or the mark-down is not enough to justify buying both unless you really want two versions. You can get this information by visiting the title’s Audible listing. It will tell you at the top of the page what the discounted price is and once it is in your Kindle, Audible will automatically give you the special price.
At least at the time of this writing, you can game the system to get the Whispersynch pricing for Kindle books that you have temporary ownership of under the Kindle Unlimited program. All you have to do is have the title currently checked out. Audible treats it like you own the title and will automatically give you the discount. I have used this method several times to get a “forever” copy of books I found to be desert island keepers after discovering them on KU. The Whispersynch discount may be steep enough that the audio version ends up being a cheaper buying option over the Kindle or print list prices.