Public library versus Audible

Photo: Moyan Brenn http://bit.ly/1ZZHXHn

The bulk of my early childhood memories originate from my elementary school (Go Dragons!) It was a moderately sized, U-shaped building at the edge of a street at the edge of a town at the edge of a state. This building was the place I met my friends, learned some stuff and discovered sports. Of the passions that consumed my little bowl-cut covered brain, reading was one of the most prominent. The library at that school was a massive library. Throughout my years at the school, I always had the maximum number of books checked out and would live for the days when Scholastic (or whoever it was) came in for the monthly (or quarterly…annual?) book fair. My parents were generous enough to arm me with budget for one book each time and I would spend hours going through the catalog deciding on my next purchase at the fair the next day. Fast forward 25 or 30 years. My book obsession did not leave. The problem is that these days, instead of an order form for a few bucks each book fair, I have 1-click ordering, an Audible subscription, local bookstores and a shitload of books cluttering up my house. All of these factors led to hundreds of dollars per year in book purchases, until I finally decided to save money and ditching my friend Amazon for a trip back to the local public library.

My Amazon Problem

One of the toughest things that I have encountered in my stealthy wealthy transformation has been breaking up with the brands I love. Sure, it’s easy to flip the bird to your cable company because they are a cable company and f*** cable companies. But when it comes to brands and products that I really like such as Spotify, Sirius XM Satellite Radio and Amazon (Kindle and Audible in this case), it’s tough to say goodbye. Especially when it comes to books. For the past few years, I have been in the habit of reading one book per week for a grand total of at least 52 books per year. The problem is, books are not free. I always justified this spending by recognizing that it was my source of entertainment, books make me smarter and I seem like a well read man of knowledge when a house guest or colleague would see stacks of books on my shelves or desk. However, after realizing that this level of scholarly wisdom (plus a lot of books about basketball) was costing me around $500 per year, I had to make a change.

Rediscovering the public library

So, there I was. I had to save money, but I wasn’t going to stop reading. This is the point where I put on my stealthy wealthy money saving pants and decided that there had to be a better way. One day on my lunch break, I took a seven block stroll down to the public library and found the answer that I had been looking for. First, let me quantify the problem that I was solving. We are not only talking about physical books here. The majority of the reading that I was doing was listening to Audible (14.99 per month subscription) while I was in my car or at the gym, reading Kindle ebooks on my app whenever I had mobile downtime and reading through the Kindle app on my tablet in bed at night. Replacing this wasn’t as simple as checking out a book or two from the library.

Back to the solution. I entered the public library expecting to find a grungy crowd and a few shelves of years-old books that I would have no interest in reading. Instead, I found a five floor, LEED certified, solar friendly building that looked more like a Barnes and Noble and the Smithsonian had a love child. The building would have taken a full day to navigate and my fears of outdated books were put to rest. As a test, I searched for the five most recent books that I had completed and found that there were not only multiple copies of each, but there were also audio versions on CDs. This definitely took care of the paper copy issue that I was trying to solve. I checked out three books with my newly minted library card and I was on my way.

Later that night, continuing my newly found love for the public library, I started browsing the website and read about two apps that the library had partnered with, Hoopla and Overdrive. I downloaded both, but decided to stick with Hoopla due to a slightly more friendly user experience. I registered using my library card number and was thrilled to discover that I had found my Kindle and Audible replacement. Hoopla allows you to virtually check out books, audiobooks and movies which you can download for playback on your smartphone. Since I have registered, I have “read” 9 books on Hoopla and found no noticeable differences between this app and Audible, with the obvious exception of the $175+ hit to my bank account each year. Not only is there no noticeable change in my quality of life or reading, but I now have what will add up to over $900 saved in the next five years. With the assumption that this money can make a very conservative 7% per year, that gives me a 5 year savings of $1,359.14. All for ditching my friend Amazon in favor of one of the foundational elements of most American cities.

Common Questions about canceling Audible for the Library

What happens when you cancel Audible?

When you cancel Audible, you will still have access to any audiobooks that you have purchased. I spent the existing credits that I had in my account on a few books that I had been wanting to read, then downloaded those to my desktop just in case. However, this was not necessary as Amazon still allows you to access all of your audiobooks through the Audible app or desktop site.

Do you have to pay for a public library card?

Nope.

What about public library late fees?

In most cities, you are able to request extensions on any book if you do not complete it by the due date. At my local library, you can actually request multiple extensions before a book will ever be considered late. On top of this, most of the “borrowing” that I’m currently doing from my library is actually digital, so there is really no risk of late fees being assessed.

But what if you want to own the book?

This is really a personal preference. For me, I had to come to grips with the fact that I should no longer take pride in my ownership of books. I didn’t write the books. Most of them were around before me and will be around long after me. There is really no reason that I should feel the need to own physical copies and display them proudly in my home. My interaction with the book is reading, learning and enjoying. Plus, owning less physical books allows me to declutter my house and helps a ton with my 2,000 item minimalism challenge. As one more added bonus of no longer keeping physical books around my house, I made $115 on Amazon by clearing out my shelves and selling existing books that I had no intention of reading again.

Well, it took me about 25 years to learn what I knew as an elementary school student, but I finally realized how much money I could save by canceling my Audible subscription and getting a library card. I have yet to come across a book that I wanted to read and could not get access to and I have kept up my previous pace of reading. The only change has been the amount of money that’s going to be waiting for me after a few years of Audible-free living. To learn more about some of the other subscriptions that I cancelled in an effort to save money, check out how I saved $5,000 in one day. Happy reading!