8 Rules of Etiquette for Sharing an Audible Account

About a year ago, I discovered audio books in a big way. I was spending up to two hours a day commuting on a bus from my parents’ house in Maryland to downtown Washington, DC and I quickly discovered that motion sickness was a very real problem when I tried to read a book in print.

Enter Audible. My book consumption skyrocketed and I’ve never looked back. Even after moving to NYC, I still rely on audiobooks during my subway commutes as I often have to stand the whole 45-minute trip.

But my parents were slower to jump on the audiobook bandwagon. My dad doesn’t get motion sick so he was still reading print or ebooks on his nook. And until recently my mom was driving into the city and listening to the news on the radio. But in the last few months a switch flipped and they both have jumped with two feet into the audiobook deep end. They’re tearing through books faster than I can recommend them, and now giving me suggestions for books to add to my own library.

Recently, we started comparing Audible libraries and discovered a lot of duplicates. A LOT. My parents had recently each binged on an Audible sale and had a ton of brand new books that overlapped not only with my library but with each other’s.

It begged the question, why are we each spending 15 bucks a month on a membership when we’re all listening to the same stuff? Why don’t we share an account?

As easy as that sounds, it turns out its a bit harder in reality than in theory. Taking advantage of Audible’s return policy, we all returned some unlistened-to duplicates, and my dad and I each canceled our accounts, with my mom’s becoming our sole active membership. The canceled accounts still contain all the books we’d previous purchased on them; we just have to sign back in to them to access the books and we shared everyone’s log-ins so we all have access to each other’s libraries.

With three people on one account though, we’ve had to establish some rules and guidelines. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. Don’t buy something on the account without asking permission first. There’s a reason this is rule number 1. Despite the fact that we’re, ya know, family, I’m not going to go buying books willy nilly on my mom’s credit card. Recently a daily deal popped up that I really wanted to take advantage of, so I bought it on my closed account (which you can still do). It was only a buck more without having a membership and I didn’t have to spend my mom’s money.
  2. But if there’s something you want, check with the rest of the group – maybe they’ll want it too. The beauty of a shared account with people who share your taste is that, if you want a book, they probably will too and may want to shill out the money themselves if you can’t.
  3. Stay organized. The first thing we did before canceling two of the three accounts was to make a shared Google doc of all of the books in each person’s library. We also jump into that document when we’ve finished a book and have moved onto another one, and make note that someone is listening to a particular book and on which account, so two people aren’t trying to listen to the same thing at the same time and messing up each other’s book marks.
  4. Decide in advance who gets to use the credits. We switched to the 2 credits/month plan since it was still cheaper than 3 individual memberships, and since I almost never bought books outside of credits, I’m mostly going to just use those. But before the credits appear, make some kind of agreement about who gets them.
  5. If you’re all using the same kind of device, deactivate other devices. Audible allows you to have three mobile apps activated at the same time on the same account. Both of my parents and I have iPhones and are all using the iOS mobile app for our listening. That meant that my mom had to deactivate her iPad for us to be able to share. Sacrifice, people. Its for the good of all.
  6. Don’t be a plot ruiner. Sometimes in a shared account, its hard to keep track of who has read which books yet. Don’t assume that the people you’re sharing with have gotten to the end of whatever John Grisham book you’re listening too yet and blurt out the ending. Not cool, friends. (Ahem, MOM).
  7. Don’t fill the account with just your weird shit. This rule and how you interpret it totally depends on the people you’re sharing your account with, and the terms should be agreed upon from the beginning. Even if you have similar tastes in books, your purchases will diverge slightly. That’s fine, but try to be conscientious of the other people’s tastes too, especially if you’re using credits to buy your weird pop psychology or obscure horror titles. Its not to say you can’t buy those books, just maybe give everyone plenty of warning. And put them on your own credit card.
  8. Be adventurous. The flip side to the previous guideline is that sharing an account is an opportunity to listen to books you might otherwise have skipped right on by. I probably won’t be salivating to read the next Bourne book after my dad is done listening to it, but I might give it a shot down the road. After all, he likes it, and we have similar tastes in other genres, so maybe I’ll like it too. Don’t automatically turn up your nose at the weird shit that pops up in the account – you never know what you’ll discover.

So, those are our tips for sharing an Audible account and not killing each other. Do you share an account with someone? Do you have any suggestions to add to my list?

Samantha Irby and Robin Sloan talk about their favorite books in our newest podcast, Recommended. Download it for free from Apple Podcasts or Google Play.