Audiobook Economics

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Recently, Audible had a site-wide sale where everything on the site was up-to 85% off. I love sales like these because they are a feeding-frenzy for buying books. But to make the most effective use of such a sale requires a bit of skill. I picked up more than a dozen audiobooks in the latest sale, and I thought I’d use that as an example of audibook economics that I have picked up in the 9+ years I have been using Audible.

The first thing to understand is my subscription to the Audible service: I have the Audible Premium Plus subscription. This subscription entitles me to 2 credits each month, a 30% discount of the prices of Audiobooks, access to anything in the “Plus” catalog, special discounts like the Daily Deal, and other features. For this I pay about $25/month.

At $25/month my credits are worth $12.50 each. So when I am browsing books to buy, if the book in question costs less than $12.50, I won’t use a credit for it. Instead, I’ll pay separately. Moreover, I can buy an additional 3-pack of credits for $35, which amounts to $11.60/credit. So in practice, my rule is that if an audiobook costs more than $12 I’ll use a credit; if it costs less than $12 I’ll pay separately for it. This is just common sense.

There are always exceptions, however. For instance, especially with nonfiction books (the bulk of what I listen to) I will frequently also buy the Kindle version. Often times, if you look at the Kindle page for a book, you will see an option to add the Audible audiobook version for a fraction of the normal price. For instance, the Kindle edition might cost $12.99 and there will be an option to add on the audiobook for an additional $7.99. That is a grand total of $21, which is more than the cost of a credit. However, because the audiobook add-on is only $7.99, which is less than my $12 threshold. In these cases, I generally don’t use a credit to pay for the editions. I justify this because I get more than I would for buying the audiobook alone. And besides, often times the audiobook alone wouldn’t be $7.99, but more like $20. It is only bundled with the e-book that is becomes discounted.

There are other deals I look out for. I always check out the Daily Deal, which usually offers an audiobook at a deep discount each day, normally in the range of $2-6. In these cases, I never use credits to pay for the book because the credits are worth more than the book. I’ll just pay normally for these.

Then there are the 2-for-1 deals that popup now and then. In these deal, you can use a single credit to get 2 audiobooks. These can be tricky. If I see books that I want, I have to weigh the cost of getting 2-for-1, over the paying separately for the Kindle edition, if I want it. In other words, I will look to see if the Kindle edition offers a discounted add-on for the audiobook and then weight the difference over the use a single credit. Sometimes it is worth spending the credit, other times, I pay without the credit to get the bundle with the Kindle edition.

At the time of the recent site-wide sale, I think I had 4 credits stored up. Here is how I ended up aqcuiring 16 books from that sale using the method detailed above (and using just one credit):

BookList PriceSale PriceI Paid
Gotham by Edwin G. Borrows and Mike Wallace$39.95$5.99$5.99
The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal$29.95$4.49$4.49
Collosus by Mike Hiltzik$29.95$4.49$4.49
Fallout by Lesley M. M. Blume$17.00$8.49$8.49
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White$18.90$9.46$9.46
Point to Point Navigation by Gore Vidal$24.49$3.67$3.67
Index, A History of The by Dennis Duncan$17.49$8.74$8.74
The Man From the Future by Ananyo Bhattacharya$31.50$20.331 Credit
The Gulf by Jack E. Davis$24.49$3.67$3.67
The Death of a President by William Manchester$39.95$5.99$5.99
The Hawk’s Way by Sy Montgomery (pre-order)$14.17$7.08$7.08
Cuba by Ada Ferrer$33.07$5.95$5.95
Fairy Tale by Stephen King (pre-order)$33.07$16.54$16.54
A Man of Iron by Troy Senik$22.67$11.34$11.34
Analogia by George Dyson$24.49$12.24$12.24
Einstein’s Fridge by Paul Sen$18.89$9.44$9.44

For the 14 books I ordered, I paid just 28% of the list price. Note that I used a credit for the most expensive of the books on sale (The Man From the Future). Techically, that credit cost me about $11 so I saved $13 by using it, which means I should add the $7 to the price I paid. That brings my total to $124.58, which is still only 29% of the list price. I think that is a pretty good bargain.

That, good readers, is my theory of audiobook economics. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do.

Written on March 7, 2022.

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