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How to save thousands of dollars on audiobooks

By MixDex Article may include affiliate links

For many, audiobooks bring a whole new dimension to reading — with the right narrator, characters can come to life.

Plus, audiobooks are great for while working out, driving in the car or crafting because they don’t require you to hold a book in your hand and keep your eyes on it.

However, audiobooks can often be surprisingly expensive. It’s not uncommon for them to be more expensive than even the hardcover version of a novel.

Chirp Books is one way to save a lot of money on audiobooks, however — and the site is aimed at making a big splash in the sale of digital audiobooks via ecommerce.

Here’s how it works.

After creating a free Chirp account, you’ll see “featured deals” in genres of your selection (though you can always browse other categories for great deals as well). These deals typically range from $1 to around $5.

Chirp does not charge any membership or subscription fees — you only pay for what you buy.

While it’s not as common to see titles from big-name authors in this section, they do show up from time to time. Many of the selections tend to be lesser-known authors or older titles. There also appears to be a fair number of titles from British authors that may not be as well known to U.S. readers.

This can, however, be a great way to discover new authors or reads that you might not consider. Sure, sometimes titles aren’t exactly literary masterpieces but paying a few books for even silly escapism can still be a good move.

Speaking of that, if you’re a fan of romance novels (nothing wrong with that!) the site appears to be a good way to stock up on those titles at a great price.

One big catch is that featured deals have expiration dates, often ranging from a few days to a month or so. The site typically tells you when the deal is expiring.

Chirp also arranges titles by series, and it’s not uncommon to see a title from either the start or middle of a series pop up as a deal but then the other titles remain near full price. It’s not clear if this is a strategy the site uses to try to get users hooked on a series in order to sell more of the titles down the road.

Speaking of full price, Chirp still carries most major publishers’ audiobooks, including from big-name authors and sells nearly all of these titles at a slight discount, typically around 10% off. While it’s not nearly as good of a deal as $5, it’s still saving a little if you really want to listen to a particular title.

In a library of about 250 titles, a user can easily save over $3,500 off list prices.

It appears that Chirp, at least in part, is able to offer such low prices through deals it works out with authors and publishers. It also charges publishers and authors a fee for being a featured deal, which equates to a marketing expense to, hopefully, boost sales of a title that allows the publisher and author to make up for the cost of both promoting the title and discount in terms of volume.

Chirp also allows users to put titles on a wishlist and will alert you via email when a title on your wishlist goes on sale, which is a nice feature. In some cases, users have noticed that they receive an email that a wish-listed title is a featured deal just a few days after adding it to the list — though it’s not clear if this could be a coincidence or done on purpose.

That said, Chirp almost certainly can see how many people have a certain title on their wish list (and how long it’s been there without paying the higher price) and use this to determine what tiles it puts on sale or use that data to convince publishers to offer a deal. It’s also not clear what level of personalization deals get — for example, the site could put a title on sale for some users but not all.

Chirp also sends out emails about new releases or selections from authors or genres you read frequently but that are not featured deals. There is also a weekly email that outlines featured titles in your favorite genres.

While it’s always possible to borrow an audiobook for free from a local library, Chirp could also been seen as a sort of happy medium of being able to financially support authors but also not going broke buying audiobooks. Of course, discounts do cut into author royalties and that may also depend on what deal they have with their publisher, but there also appears to be a decent selection of self-published or independent publishers in the collection.

One downside to Chirp is that sometimes it’s easy to see a deal without realizing it’s an abridged version of the book. Chirp does label this clearly on the product page, but it’s still rather small and placed within a bunch of additional information, so it’s easy to miss, especially if you’re focused on that great price. 

New Chirp users can enjoy 50% off their first order of already discounted titles.