How I accidentally read 75 books last year: part 2
I could not have anticipated the overwhelmingly positive reception that my first ever blog post would receive when I posted it a couple weeks ago (You can find it here). I had many friends, people I haven’t seen/talked to in years, and people I didn’t even know reach out to me, inspired to read more. My hope with the post was to make reading 75 books sound unimpressive and doable for anyone, and I was thrilled to see that so many walked away convinced they too could do it!
Many of you had follow up questions so I wanted to take some time to address them. Specifically, how I was able to afford all those books, my book recommendations, and what resources I used to accomplish my goal:
We can’t afford not to learn
First off, I think it’s important to point out how costly it is to not spend time reading and learning. I quit my job over a year ago to live the entrepreneurial dream of surviving off of dirt to get my startup off the ground. In fact, the other day I was looking at my personal finances from last year and realized that I lived off of just $10,000 in my first full year entrepreneuring🤑. Every extra dime I can spare goes back into growing my business. I share this in hopes that anyone who thinks they can’t afford to read a lot can see how I was able to still exceed my reading goal despite a very tight budget.
While I have found ways to cut my monthly spending on books in half with a few tricks I picked up along the way (which I’ll share in a moment), I want to be clear that the cost would have had no impact on my decision to continue on with my goal. The incredible influence this experience had on me was worth much more than the $70/month I averaged in book purchases for the first few months of 2016.
Many pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to buy school textbooks they don’t even want to read (and/or never intend on reading again). If you’re nervous about adding an extra expense to your budget you’re looking at this all wrong. First off, if you’re not willing to spend tens of dollars/month to invest in your future just because a teacher isn’t forcing you to, you’re probably going to come well short of achieving your full potential in life. I can guarantee you that someone who reads even 30 books/year consistently, will, over the long term, make up that investment many fold in earnings potential/ability. Not to mention the most compelling reasons I read, which include improving the richness of my life, the depth of conversations in relationships, the exhilarating feeling of exploring new ideas etc.
I would give up just about any other expense in my meager budget to ensure that I could continue reading. It adds that much value to my life. Very few expenses will enhance your life more. You can’t afford NOT to read.
Tips and Tricks for Saving $ on Books
I started off spending $70/month in books on average (mostly audiobooks). However, while it was well worth what I was spending, I did want to see if I could find ways to reduce that cost. So here’s a few tips and tricks for getting there:
Watch for Sales
Once you become an audible subscriber, they’ll send out frequent emails with huge discounts on certain selections of books. Knowing I can read a book in less than a week, I feel like a little kid in a candy store when I see these sales show up in my email inbox. In fact, I once purchased 12 books for something like $29 total during a sale. Make sure you reclassify Audible emails from your promotions folder or you’ll miss them. Audible will also post a daily deal on their home page where you can get the featured book from anywhere between $2.95 and $4.95.
Share w/ Friends
I have a number of friends who are fellow audiobook lovers with whom I exchange audible passwords. I really enjoy this as it both allows me to have books in common with friends that we can talk about, and I get to see and read their very favorite books. I’m honestly not sure if Audible frowns upon this practice, but last time I checked I have 9 iphone and 3 android devices on my account, and I haven’t heard a word from them…. In the end it’s not any different than lending a friend a physical copy of a book you’ve already purchased, so I’m not too concerned about it.
I also have a few siblings and friends with access to my account who will purchase books they want to read and just pay me back. That way books start showing up on my account that I get to read for free!
You can also link your Amazon/Audible account to another person in your household. This allows you to share both prime benefits and digital content between the two accounts without having to share passwords.
Overdrive is a great, affordable option (it’s free🤗). All you have to do is have a library card with your local library and you can access any of that Library’s online digital content. I believe that most library’s are connected to one of the Overdrive digital libraries, which all seem to have a reasonable selection of books. However, three cautions on overdrive before you get too excited about its freeness:
1- The user experience/interface on this app is abysmal. It’s woefully ugly and I still get lost trying to navigate around it (Although you guys may not care as much as the guy building an app for a living).
2- If you want to read a popular book, you’ll probably have to wait a while😔. I think I’ve waited up to 2 months for a book to become available before. They’ll let you wait in line for 5 books at a time, but for a high volume reader like me, that doesn’t always quite cut it.
3- While they do have a lot of books, the selection doesn’t compare to Audible’s. So you’ll probably run into a number of books that they just don’t carry. But it’s a great go to 1st resource if they have the book you want to read and the wait time isn’t too long.
FYI, there’s another similar app called OneClickDigital but it has less content and I’m not a big fan. I’ve only ever read one or two books on it.
Only Buy Expensive Books with Credits
A credit can be used to buy any book on Audible. I’m on the $22.95/month plan that gives me two credits each month. Once you get down to one credit, audible sends you an offer to purchase 3 credits for $35ish. A few weeks ago, my brother bought a book for $30 or so on my account. When I saw the Venmo come through, I had him return it and told him to go back in and take advantage of the 3 credit offer instead. That way he could purchase his $30 book with a credit and get two other books for only a few dollars more.
My rule of thumb for purchasing audiobooks is; if it costs less than $11–12, I buy the book outright. If it costs more than that, I use a credit.
Return the Books you Don’t Like
I’ve only personally returned 5 or so books, but audible has a very generous return policy. I buy so many books from them that I don’t have a problem taking advantage of it when I start reading a book I feel isn’t worth my time. Knowing I can return a book also removes the hesitation when I’m considering buying it.
As much as I love audiobooks, I’m still not a physical book hater. So I have physical books I purchased over the years that I’m still working through. Or I’ll borrow physical copies from friends. This doesn’t save me huge amounts of money, as most books I read are audiobooks, but hey, every little bit helps.
Other Tips and Tricks
Finding Good Books to Read
Goodreads is a social platform for books, and is by far the best source for reviews and discovering new books. People are too generous on Audible, so I don’t trust their ratings nearly as much. I will not purchase a book without looking up its Goodreads rating. The nice thing about Goodreads is that it tends to attract avid readers who are very critical, thorough, and insightful in their ratings and reviews. I’ve found that with very few exceptions, you can’t really go wrong with a book rated ~4 stars or higher. The user experience isn’t top notch, but it’s good enough and the site fills enough of a pain that I still use it.
My Book Recommendations
I’ve had a number of people reach out asking me for book recommendations. I keep a list of the 75 books I read last year, my top 15 from 2016, and a running list of books I’m currently reading here if you want a good place to get started. You can also friend me on Goodreads here. I do try to add a rating and review for most books I read if my opinion’s worth anything to you.
As I mentioned in part one of this post, I take notes to improve retention and for future reference. I’ve used Microsoft’s One Note for years and it makes organizing and syncing my notes between devices very simple. I take a note on my phone and it shows up on my computer right away and vice versa. Their desktop app (part of the Microsoft Office Suite) works great, but the mobile app, especially the iOS version, struggles at times (especially syncing). My experience with their Android app is that they’ll release an update one day that’ll fix an issue, and then release another a few weeks later that’ll break something else. It usually remains functional, it can just get annoying. So while it’s frustrating at times, I’m not a big Evernote fan, and I’m yet to find a better solution, so it’s the best I’ve found for now.
I find myself frequently in conversations about what I’ve read/am reading so I love the quick reference from an app in my phone when I need it. And I take a lot of notes as I listen to books at the gym. Plus I try to review those notes periodically to improve retention, so having a good note taking system has become important to me.
Starting a new goal can be daunting at times. But it’s often the uncertainty of how/where to start that prevents us from ever getting started in the first place. So I hope this was valuable in showing a clear, easy way forward that will dispel some of that uncertainty. I love experimenting and finding my own systems, but sometimes it’s nice just to ride on someone else’s coattail and save the time figuring it all out. So if you’ve found these tips/tricks valuable, or have others you’d like to add, please share them with us below!