Reading on a Budget

As we were working on the family budget last night, I looked at the line item for Kindle Unlimited, and pondered canceling it for a moment. I haven’t been reading since… August. Maybe even since late June. I just haven’t had much time. The First Reader shrugged when I asked him what he thought “I don’t use it.”

Actually, he does, he just doesn’t always realize it. The man reads whatever I put on the kindle account, if it catches his eye, he just doesn’t often ask me for specific titles. But it did get me thinking about a couple of things. First isn’t really related to books. Well, sort of.

Reading time is usually important for me. It’s how I retreat from the world, relax, and come back refreshed and ready to go again. I haven’t had much of that (up until very recently and more on that later) for months, which isn’t a good thing. The First Reader reads for much the same reasons, and his reading has been on lunch breaks, mostly. He also goes through kicks where he’s reading one author, and we mostly own those books in paper. Both of us are, normally, voracious readers, which is why Kindle Unlimited seemed to have been a good idea when I signed up for it a year or so ago. If you didn’t know, you can borrow up to ten titles at a time. Once you read a book, you can return it and immediately borrow another. In other words, unlimited reading material and yes, the author gets paid (although reviews per read are lower, please keep in mind reviews matter if you want to keep books coming from a favorite author).

Reading seasons, at least for us, fluctuate. I’ve not been reading much. The First Reader and I, talking a while back, discussed these dry spells where reading (and I should clarify that this pertains to fiction, I’ve been reading massive amounts of scientific papers and textbooks) is difficult. It feels weird to us, like we’re somehow ill and it’s unsettling to not be able to read. I discovered that my ‘dry spell’ was broken once we were moved into the new house, by a small thing that wasn’t possible at the old house. We have a proper bathtub. So I can sit and soak in the tub and read. I can’t indulge often – perhaps weekly – but I have confirmed something else by doing this.

My fiction creative well is somewhat linked to my reading. I’ve been getting flashes of stories since I was able to do this. Not much, yet, I don’t have the time to let it be more than the illumination of scenes in a flashbulb moment. But they are coming. I was beginning to wonder if I was broken.
But back to the kitchen table discussion. We try to sit down now at the first of the month and formally plan out what will be spent that month. With the kids here, and the move to the rented house (and the long-term plan of buying a home in a few years), we’re trying to be intentional about money. It also makes me think ahead, and realize that with school ending in less than two weeks, I’ll have reading time again. And writing time! And… actually, it’s a bit scary, the whole school-done thing. I need to ramp up the job search, but I also want to write like heck to get some income rolling in down the line.

I’m rambling. I think my point, lost somewhere in the weeds up there, is that I can’t be the only reader who has to justify their book habit in a budget meeting. I even have the advantage that as a writer, I can argue it’s necessary for business reasons. As that businesswoman, I am acutely aware that my readers won’t even look at my ebook if it’s 9.99 or more. Well, they might. If it’s available through their local library. So I scrutinize my pricing, and I put my work in the KU library, and as a result even though I haven’t put out a new novel in well over a year now, I have a steady trickle of people reading my stuff, and buying it. I imagine if I looked around at promo sites, and put some money in advertising, I could swell that trickle, but until I’m ready to push the next book, that’s not in the budget either.

So for me, Kindle Unlimited is worth the ten dollars a month. It’s a fairly large pool of reading material, and as with any book marketplace, Sturgeon’s Law applies. You will have to look to find the good stuff, although for me the alsobots help with that. And there are scammy books in KU, which offend me not just as a reader but a writer. The scam is that someone figured out Amazon calculates pages read not on each click of the page (good news to the privacy conscious) but on where in the book you are when you sync with wifi again. So the scammers put in TOC links, or other links, which when the reader clicks, take them to the back of the book. Voila! KU is tricked into paying out for hundreds or thousands of pages read. This kind of crap makes it harder for real authors, and in some ways is almost worse than the poorly-written crap that just makes people give up after a few pages. (hat tip to George Phillies for the article link).

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, shameless promotion. I do get a little ad money if you sign up for the free trial through this link, in interest of full disclosure)

Oh, and I don’t read on my tablet in the bath, although I could (large Ziploc in case of splashes or sleepy author dropping), instead I’m working through some of my paper TBR pile. Having just moved, I can see all my books again. And it makes me aware of how deplorably disorganized they are… nope. Not touching that until after graduation. The list of to-do-while-I’m-supposed-to-be-writing is growing ever longer.

46 thoughts on “Reading on a Budget

    1. I’ve been thinking about shutting it off for a couple of months, but I am looking at later December and knowing I’ll be reading again. If only to avoid writing once I’m crunching on that!

  1. I actually do more reading with the Kindle App on my phone, simply because it’s always available. I’ve also found out I try more stuff with KU.

    1. There’s a low cost-to-risk ratio with KU. If you’re reading for virtually free, you’ll take chances. I’ve found really good stuff, along with the plebian and ugh books.

  2. Don’t have a kindle (I sideload to a nook), but I purchase 90% of my ebooks via an Amazon gift card (Baen bundles are the only exception). Periodically I’ll reload the gift card ($25-$50); no money in that account means that I can’t buy anything. Given the size of my virtual TBR pile, this has worked out quite well.

  3. To manage my eBook budget I use Bookbub, Kindle Daily Deals and Early Bird Books to discover heavily discounted ebooks. I use to track prices of ebooks I want to read. I set prices that work for my budget and when they reach my trigger price I get an email alert. Finally I use my Overdrive app (available for Apple and Android to discover and check out ebooks from my local library for free.

  4. I got KU a while back, and have been very thankful for it, since I’ve been semi-laid-up a lot over the last few months to a year. There are some really bad writers putting books on there (I’ve been making a list of authors I like as I go, hoping to avoid trying the poor authors a second time), but there are also some quite good writers. There are even some who are pretty well-known. For me, KU has been well-worth the ten dollars a month, especially since the little village library six miles away really doesn’t have a lot, and the bigger library is an hour’s drive away. Sometimes if I’m not feeling all that great, I am not up to browsing through the library while we are in town to do errands.

    I have also found a few authors through KU who I really like, and either have bought their books or plan to. Like Mackey Chandler’s April series….

  5. A bit of software I have found useful for budgeting is “You need a budget”. I also found their 4rules helpful, though rule 4 is the hardest to get to.

    In reading dry spells. Your books and Amanda Greens have broken a very long dry spell for me. (Multiple years of not being able to read much at all, and then only the very familiar.) You’ll be seeing more buys from me. I owe both of you reviews.

    1. I use Every Dollar, which helpfully syncs to my phone and allows me to enter transactions on the go.

      And thank you. I’m very happy to hear you enjoyed my books. Have you seen Amanda’s latest? I reviewed it on my personal blog today.

  6. Being in academia, albeit the other side of the desk, I hear you about lack of reading time. Between my son entering high school (can you say “band parent”?) and and overload in my teaching assignments, I’m getting very little reading and almost no writing done.

    I’m also trying to be intentonal about money and have started logging every dime spent. What has been going for books (just this month alone) is alarming. A lot of what I’m trying to read is paper. I think my New Year’s Resolution will be to cut back on book buying until I read some of what I’ve bought and achieve some financial goals. So, no, I don’t think it’s unusual to budget for books. I think it’s smart.

    1. Band parent means being able to read while waiting on kids… LOL

      I’m finding that doing a budget, which I used to do as a matter of course, is a very good thing. We went from very low expense to having kids at home again, and paying attention is a necessity!

      1. Band parent means being able to read while waiting on kids… LOL

        Oh my yes. And writing in notebooks. Many’s the time I’ve spent outside a band room browsing the Daily Deals and public domain works on my Kindle.

  7. Heh. I’m in a bit of a dry spell caused by now needing glasses to do so, but not being used to the (censored) things yet.

    How is it that sunglasses bought off the rack are comfortable and you can easily wear them all day long, but eyeglasses supposedly custom fitted to you make you want to rip them off and fling them across the room in under an hour?

    1. Since I’ve worn glasses since I was 14, I don’t remember the transition. I know that I feel weird without them on. I suspect it’s not the glasses themselves, but the adjustment to your vision that makes them feel weird.

      Also, KU offers audiobooks, if you can do those. I can’t. Or couldn’t last time I tried.

      1. Maybe. Things are blurry outside of the lenses.

        But I think part of it is that corrective glasses are always heavier than sunglasses on the bridge of the nose. Yes, only a small amount, but it’s always there. (I’ve got you beat, BTW – I’ve worn glasses for everything since I was about 8. Glass lenses, too, as when I tried the plastic ones, I went through three in less than six months – the first scratch always crossed right in the middle of the vision field. My nose has a rather odd shape…)

        1. Also, the focus moves as you scrunch your nose, smile, shift your jaw, raise your eyebrows, etc.

          I’m starting to see why some people prefer poking themselves in the eye to wearing the damned things.

          1. And you’re always cleaning them, and…

            Most of the annoyances you eventually adapt to – although it is probably harder when you’re an adult than it was for Cedar and I.

            OTOH, since the alternative for me is making the acquaintance of far more brick walls than I really want to…

            1. Two of the hardest things to get used to after my cataract surgery:

              1. If I want to see something up close, I have to put on my reading glasses and look through them, not over the top of them.

              2. When I’m not reading, I want to take the glasses OFF to see better. Especially when driving.

              I was extremely nearsighted before……

    2. I do most of my reading on the screen. I often enough find myself with dry spells due to allergies/dirty glasses/short sleep/dirty screen etc… Recently I had a fairly significant change to the shape of my face, which caused me problems because the lenses were no longer properly aligned with my eyes. The guy I use knows what he is doing, and does it for free, so I went in and had them refitted. First attempt, seeing no longer hurt, and I’m good to go.

      (I’ve just cleaned off my glasses and the screen, which feels like it was part of the current problem.)

      1. Also, reading on the screen reduces your blink rate; if you have dry eyes normally, that will make it way worse.

  8. I haven’t been reading much lately. When I got my bifocals it took me about six weeks to adjust before I started reading again. Then in July I just kind of lost interest in reading for awhile. I don’t have a budget per se, but I try to only buy stuff on sale. I’ve got so much on my Nook now I probably won’t ever read all of it.

  9. My husband is also a bathtub reader. Once he heard of the ziplock trick, he stole my original kindle. When it goes, he’ll be in trouble. The touch screens are a PITA inside bags.

    1. I budget time for reading, and I included the internet as part of my reading time. so reading MGC counts.
      i’m not sure if it counts for fiction or non fiction.

  10. I’ve never seen the issue with putting my stuff on KU. I know some authors shy away from it because the payout per page count can be low compared to a purchase, but be honest, that’s because the book is short. The shorter the book, the lower the payout. If you want KU to pay a little better, consider writing something more substantial than a novella.

    Either way, it really is a bit like Netflix for books … and people love Netflix. It wouldn’t surprise me if it cut down on a bit of piracy, too (though nothing can get rid of piracy, sadly) simply by making books more accessible.

    And some people are on a budget. Or read so much that KU and a library are a better investment for them. I really don’t mind leaving an option for them to find and read through my stuff.

    Granted, it helps that my KU payouts are pretty good. My latest release is a large enough book that the KU payout is pretty much what I’d make off of a sale anyway, so whichever way people choose to read it, I’m happy. If I were going a much different route, selling 125 page novels at $3 a pop, the payout from a KU read would probably feel pretty shallow in comparison to $2. Which in turn moves to people gaming the system, but …

    Me, I don’t mind KU. Its another avenue of exposure I can take advantage of.

  11. I’ve had KU for about a year now. I do wonder if I could write it off on my taxes as a business expense! And I do use it for business, I download every book that I publish and page through it, making sure the entire thing loaded up correct. It’s a bit cheaper than buying a copy (which I did before joining KU) because I learned years ago (the hard way) that some errors don’t turn up until Amazon starts serving your book.
    I also buy and read a lot of other books via KU on my kindle. My reading ebbs and flows with my writing however. Once I’m deep in writing a book and getting closer to the end, my head is so wrapped up in the plot that I won’t pick up a book to read until I’m done.
    I don’t know if it has saved me money or not, but it has been convenient.

    1. I finally put KU in the budget last month – and the “Portals” series was among the first that I binge-read. (Not reviewed, I’m afraid that I’m one of those who goes nuts on grammar and so on…)

      I side-load to the Kindle for the same reason you do – even the “previews” that the Amazon software give me are chancy. (I get the kids to side-load on their cell phones too.)

      I’ve not been reading much new lately, though – I have your other books in the queue, and some Sanderson and Hoyt that I bought last month – but The Muse is holding them hostage until I produce something new. Sigh…

      1. All of the portals books, except the last one, went through an editor.
        What are you calling ‘Grammar errors’? While I’m sure some may have gotten through, I am really curious.

        1. Send me an address, and I’ll pick back through to send you some (not a thing to be public about, IMHO). Mostly tense and number agreement issues.

          Be at least a week, though, before I’d get back to you on it. (For one thing, I’ll need to finish at least one in the current KU TBR to reload a Portals.)

  12. I have seen that KU now includes audiobooks. Since I do my pleasure reading almost entirely on audiobooks these days, I have been considering it, but I can’t see which Audible books are included in KU. Does anyone have any experience on using KU for audiobooks?

    And listening to audiobooks in the bath is the ultimate in decadence.

  13. I’ve been reading non-fiction most of the past year, with a few occasional nibbles into fiction. I’m currently in fiction (short stories) because I may have to/get to shift back into hard academic research mode Dec-Jan-Feb and I need brain space. I get more story ideas and fodder from non-fic than fiction. And I can’t really read fiction during breaks at work. Well, I could, but I feel bad. History at least fits into “professional improvement.”

  14. I’ve noticed the same thing about writing being linked to reading. The last few months, I’ve read next to nothing, and I’ve written about the same (except for class). I’m looking forward to my Christmas break, when I get to attack my TBR list again. Not being able to read is one of the reasons I’m tiring of being at college. *Sigh* One more year.

    And if you need something really short, you could read my short story on Amazon. It’s in KU.

  15. I’m not on KU, I looked at how much I was spending on books, and just couldn’t justify the recurring expense. If my income goes up, I might reconsider…

  16. If you are using Kindle Unlimited you might want to keep an eye on Amazon’s “Prime Day” sales, they had a dirt cheap two year subscription offer if you took a Prime membership. Made taking both a lot better deal for us. I believe it is offered for a very short time every year so you need to camp on Amazon and watch for it.

    I can’t give up on KU here, I have 723 books on my KU shopping list and can’t seem to get ahead, just picked up the latest Lindsay Buroker release #7 in the Fallen Empire series for $0.00 hard to beat.

    I have a bunch of books (some very good ones) on my $$$ shopping list and if I find extra money I’ll grab one but it is hard to part with $10.00 or so for a book, no matter how good if I can read some other 4+ star book from KU.

  17. I just renewed my yearly subscription, $85 for the year is around $7 per month. Black Friday had good prices. I tend to read lots of books though KU.

  18. I haven’t tried KU yet… I’ve got 2-3 hundred books already waiting (some free, a lot paid for). I’m trying to cut down on picking up more books, and eventually I might get to the point where KU makes sense for me.

  19. I do a lot more reading on my Nook app than on my Kindle app, I liked the size and feel of the Nook Glow, being able to look at it and handle it is what really sold me. The only reason I have a Kindle app is because I have a lot of books I bought for my old Palm Tungsten, and rather than re-buy them I use the Kindle app. But I still prefer dead tree.

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