All the World's a Classroom
This is the second post of the Understanding Poverty series.
“I do what I do because I’m broken too.”
Coming from Bryan Stevenson, lawyer, civil-rights activist, founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a MacArthur Fellow, renowned speaker and social justice leader, those words, I must confess, are perplexing.
Is it sympathy? Empathy? Some poetic pathos? It sounds so very virtuous, yet I don’t really understand what he means.
In this New Yorker profile, Stevenson tells the story of Jimmy Dill, his client whose execution he tried, unsuccessfully, to overturn. Just before Dill was executed in 2009, he spoke to Stevenson.
“I’ve been in that setting before, but there was something different about this, because the man had this speech impediment,” Stevenson said. “He couldn’t get the words out, and he was going to use the last few minutes of his life—his last struggle was going to be devoted to saying to me, ‘Thank you’ and ‘I love you for what you’re trying to do.’ I think that’s what got to me in a way that few things had. And I, for the first time in my career, just thought, Is there an emotional cost, is there some toll connected to being proximate to all this suffering? I think that’s when I realized that my motivation to help condemned people—it’s not like I’m some whole person trying to help the broken people that I see along the road. I think I am broken by the injustice that I see.”
As he stands with the condemned, marginalized, and “broken,” Stevenson becomes broken too. His humanity is altered as a result of his proximity to those who suffer.
In my reading, I’ve come across this sentiment multiple times. In Finding Calcutta: What Mother Teresa Taught Me About Meaningful Work and Service, Mary Poplin writes about Mother Teresa’s journal entry in December 1948, where she says,
What poverty. What actual suffering. I gave something that will help her to sleep—but the woman longs to have some care… confession and holy Communion.—I felt my own poverty there too—for I had nothing to give that poor woman.
In standing with the poor, Mother Teresa came to a realization of her own poverty too.
The Missionaries of Charity, in fact, commit themselves to four vows, namely poverty, chastity, obedience, and free service to the poorest of the poor. They want to be one with those they serve, for how could they understand the poor if they are not living as they live.
What Stevenson, Mother Teresa, and the Missionaries of Charity have, to me, is more than just a feeling bad about the poor. It’s way beyond sentimentalism. It’s even deeper than feeling bad enough to do something about the poor. It’s more like entering into the experience of the poor and the marginalized, and being one with them.
Kinship, Our Mutuality
I found the expression of this shared brokenness most eloquently articulated by Gregory Boyle, in his books Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, where he shares stories and lessons from his work with Homeboy Industries, a rehab and re-entry program for gang members in Los Angeles.
In Tattoos on the Heart, he quotes Elaine Roulette:
Sr. Elaine Roulette, the founder of My Mother’s House in New York, was asked, “How do you work with the poor?” She answered, “You don’t. You share your life with the poor.” It’s as basic as crying together. It is about “casting your lot” before it ever becomes about “changing their lot.”
Kinship is more than doing things for others. It’s more than the “power dynamics” between the service provider and the service recipient. It’s about mutuality—a changing of both parties as a result of being proximate with each other.
Often we strike the high moral distance that separates “us” from “them,” and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there exists no daylight between us. Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Grand Ballroom.
Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.
I think Stevenson finds kinship with his clients. I think Mother Teresa finds kinship with Calcutta’s poor. I think Boyle finds kinship with the “homies.”
In this kinship, what they feel is not wholeness or some self-fulfillment from doing something altruistic. Rather, a mutual brokenness, but also awe and dignity in those who are demonized by society.
In the Christian context, I can’t help but think of Jesus. Could it be that He experiences kinship with us?
Jesus’ strategy is a simple one: He eats with them. Precisely to those paralyzed in this toxic shame, Jesus says, “I will eat with you.” He goes where love has not yet arrived, and he “gets his grub on.” Eating with outcasts rendered them acceptable.
What would it be like to feel the kinship of God?
To be continued…
This is the first post of the Understanding Poverty series.
For the past several months, my reading theme has been understanding poverty, particularly poverty in America. Some of the questions that driven me throughout this quest were: What are people’s lives like at the bottom of the market? What are the biggest struggles of their lives? How do they cope? What government policies help people’s lives? What policies worsen their lives? Where did the negative attitudes towards the poor come from (living in America, I sensed this from various sources)? From the religious standpoint, what should the role of religious institutions be? What should the attitude of a Christian be? What are the biblical perspectives on the poor?
Poverty, being such a complex subject, cannot be summarized neatly in a series of books. My quest hasn’t ended and I feel like this reading list has only skimmed the surface lightly. But I decided to begin a series of posts on my reflections throughout this journey to organize my thoughts, share learnings, and begin a conversation with you, readers of the blog. I am very much a blank slate on the topic–I do not know much. So I’m eager to learn.
As the launchpad for the essay series, I’m sharing my Understanding Poverty Reading List, which is likely to evolve further. If you have recommendations to add to my list, let me know!
Evicted is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It deals with the deep struggle for housing for the poorest of the poor in America. One of the biggest points of the book is that eviction is not only caused by poverty, but it also causes poverty. Matthew Desmond wrote out his research brilliantly in a very engaging narrative nonfiction form. He followed the lives of several families and individuals for an extended amount of time and recorded their challenges every step of the way.
Desmond’s work has also been spotlighted in the news recently. His Eviction Lab at Princeton University just released a nationwide database on evictions. For the nerds out there, he has made the raw data available for you to crunch and analyze, and share with your communities.
This book was what sparked my quest into the topic of poverty. I got it through a Kindle sale a few years ago because the title was very intriguing. Imagine, I got it for $1.99, the same amount some people live on for a day. $2.00 a Day also follows the lives of a few people, but also covers some policy background that has historically impacted–for better or for worse–the lives of the poorest in America. Several common themes emerge from this book and Evicted, especially on how people cope at this level of poverty.
Hillbilly Elegy has been credited as one of the explainers of the protectionist movement that arises from those who feel left behind by globalization, modern economy, and society. I don’t think J.D. Vance set out to play this role–he was really just telling the story of his upbringing–but he certainly opened the eyes of many to a specific culture and community that doesn’t really get represented much in most media. I can’t really do it justice in this summary, other than to say, it’s an important read.
Bryan Stevenson is my modern-day hero. In Just Mercy, poverty intersects criminal justice and race. While Hillbilly Elegy is about a poor white community, Just Mercy sheds lights on those who have historically bore the brunt of injustice in criminal law, the poor blacks. One of Stevenson’s main talking points is that in this country, you get treated better by the law if you were rich and guilty than if you were poor and innocent.
Stevenson’s work with the Equal Justice Initiative has also been spotlighted in the news very recently with the opening of the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice dedicated to African Americans terrorized by lynching in 19th and 20th century America.
Mary Poplin wrote about her experience working with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. This book is not about poverty in America, but it is about poverty and the heart of an immensely influential figure in human history. To me, Poplin becomes a vehicle that carries a common-to-me mindset and attitudes towards this radical social justice work, and how Mother Teresa’s approach challenges these mindset and attitudes.
Similar to Finding Calcutta, Katie Davis’ radical decision to live in Uganda and her mission to love, love, and love the children there is a challenge to a complacent, convenient, and comfortable involvement in social justice work, especially in the Christian context.
Greg Boyle’s work with Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles that provides gang members with jobs and support, is simply incredible. But this book, and Boyle’s message, stands out to me in that he doesn’t focus much on how to help the poor. His main message is to be with the poor. He calls it kinship, something I will talk about extensively in the essay series, as it unlocks a profound way of thinking about altruism for me.
See #7 above.
This is Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech on the lives of “the other America”, the part where rights are not fully realized. It’s a great reminder that there are lives out there that may be very dissimilar to ours, and we ought not to close out minds and hearts towards those “other people.”
I think this initial reading list gives a glimpse on how complex poverty is. It intersects housing, race, crime, drugs, abuse, and many other big issues that are not easily summarized, let alone solved. But I don’t believe in a fatalistic view that says if you can’t do anything about it, why bother knowing at all. I think there’s value in understanding what’s going on, even if one still doesn’t know what to do with it at the moment.
I fully realize that the point of view I take here is one of privilege–everything about poverty in these books is foreign to me. Each of this book opens up a whole new world that I am not familiar with, or even aware of. But I guess there’s a first step for everyone. And this is mine.
This article is a comprehensive review of all Audible subscription plans and their prices. Learn all the different membership levels and their cost comparison on a per-year, per-month, and price-per-audiobook-credit basis. [Last updated on Jan 3, 2021]
As of Jan 2021, Audible has renamed their membership levels to Audible Plus and Audible Premium Plus. See below for the comparison, as well as what the previous names of these membership levels were.
What you will learn in this article:
1. Benefits of an Audible Membership
2. How to Get 3 Free Audiobooks
3. All Audible Membership Plans & Audible Pricing
4. How to Switch Your Membership Plan
5. How to Determine Which Option is Right for You?
What you get from an Amazon Audible membership
When you get an Audible Premium Plus membership, you get the following benefits:
1. Audible credits
Audible credits can be used to purchase audiobooks, no matter how long or short, expensive or cheap the original prices are. One credit equals one audiobook. How often you get Audible credits depend on the membership plan that you subscribe to. More on this below.
You can also rollover the credits, i.e., you don’t have to use it right away. But there are limits to how many credits you can pile up in your account, and these also differ depending on your membership level.
2. Audiobook Discounts
As a member, if you purchase audiobooks by credit card, you will get discounts on all titles 30%.
3. Member-only Sales
Audible holds quite a number of sales that are accessible only to members. They send emails with daily deals, many for less than $5. They also do special events like get 2 books for 1 credit, 3 books for 2 credits, etc., which I’ve taken advantage of many times. It’s a great opportunity to stock up your library.
4. Whispersync for Voice
This is one of the neatest features of Audible, in my opinion. Many books offered by Amazon are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled, meaning that when you have both the audiobook and Kindle ebook versions of the same title, they will be synced with each other, allowing you to pick up where you left off from the audio or ebook version.
Now, why would you want to buy both versions? When you buy either an audiobook or a Kindle ebook that is Whispersync for Voice-ready, Amazon will give you an offer to buy the other version at a heavily discounted price. Sometimes, the total price for this combination, by taking advantage of the special sales or daily deals, will be lower than the original price of either the audio or ebook version.
For more on this and tips on how to get audiobook discounts via Whispersync, check out this article:
5. Easy Return or Exchange Audiobooks
If you don’t like any audiobook that you’ve purchased, you can simply return for credit and exchange the credit with another book, no questions asked. (If you bought it with a credit card, then they will refund you the money). You can do this up to 365 days after your purchase the audiobook. If your book says “Not eligible for return” even though you bought it less than 365 days ago, contact Customer Service. Some titles cannot be returned using the online tool.
6. Free Audible Stories for Kids and Adults – No Membership Needed
There’s a wealth of free audiobook listens that you can find in the Audible Stories library here. Your kids of all ages will love the selections there. There are tons of classics too. And what’s even more amazing is that there are selections in other languages, such as Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, etc. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to be an Audible member to stream these audiobooks. Read more about it here. Here’s a snapshot of the selections:
7. Free Audible Originals each month, no credits needed
With your membership, you get a fresh selection of free Audible Originals each month. These are stories that are especially produced for Audible, so you won’t get them anywhere else. They’re typically shorter, up to about 4 or 5 hours lengthwise and they are more than just books. For example, once I picked Girls & Boys, which is a play that was on off-Broadway in 2018 by Carey Mulligan. The Audible Original is also narrated by Mulligan, whom I love. There are typically selections for theater lovers, music lovers, comedy lovers, etc. For a theater enthusiast who lives so far away from New York City, I especially love the play productions! If you’re a member already, don’t forget to grab these Audible Originals each month!
8. Audible Plus Catalog
Thousands of titles in the catalog, which is also accessible if you subscribe to the lower level membership, Audible Plus. If you have the Audible Premium Plus membership, you get access to this Plus Catalog plus the entire selection of audiobooks that you can get with the credit.
Audible is getting into the podcast space, where you can listen to various podcasts, both by Audible and other third-party podcast companies, in the Audible app.
How to Get 3 Free Audiobooks Right Off the Bat
Before we go into the details of every Audible membership option, I want to first and foremost remind you that no matter which membership level you want to subscribe to, do the 30-day Free Trial first! Use the link below to get 2 free audiobooks with your free trial, and keep them forever, even though you cancel the membership after the free trial period ends. Just keep the Audible app and you can listen to the audiobooks in your library forever. Note that some free trial links only offer 1 free audiobook, so make sure you check the details first.
Now that you’ve done the free trial and downloaded the app, how do you get this 3rd free audiobook? By getting someone else to gift one to you. The first audiobook that you receive as a gift is free. So if you like a book, get a friend who already has it to forward the link from the Audible app. (Yes, you need a friend for this). Or just ask them to send you something that they know you will enjoy.
Now, be nice and return the favor. Send somebody a link of an audiobook you like from your library. There’s no limit to how many you can send. If all of your friends have never used Audible before, then they all will receive a free audiobook from the goodness of your heart.
So, 2 audiobooks from the free trial + 1 audiobook gifted to you = 3 free audiobooks. Get long audiobooks to stretch these perks even more.
Now on to the various Audible membership levels and their prices.
All Audible Subscription Plans & Prices
How much does an Audible subscription cost? Well, that depends on the type of subscription you choose.
The table below lists all of the membership options, as well as the comparison of the Audible subscription price.
UPDATE: In 2020, Audible replaced the membership levels to Audible Plus and Audible Premium Plus. What were previously Gold and Platinum membership levels are now called Audible Premium Plus (1 credit/mo – Gold equivalent, 2 credits/mo – Platinum equivalent). The table below is updated with the old and new membership names. For the rest of the article, though, I’ll still use the old names since they are more succinct.
The first 4 levels, Audible Premium Plus (previously Gold monthly and annual, Platinum monthly and annual) are full memberships, meaning that subscribing to these plans give you the full benefits of being an Audible customer (i.e., everything listed above). The Silver monthly membership is a special one that’s unadvertised. It gives you 1 audiobook credit every other month, with no access to Audible Originals.
Audible Plus is the more “lightweight” memberships, where you don’t get any audiobook credits, but you get the access to all the titles in the Plus Catalog, podcasts, and Audible Originals. Note that you also don’t get the 30% discount of audiobooks when you purchase them without credits with this membership level.
In the table, I’ve listed the price tags of each Audible membership level and the 3 metrics–Annual total cost, Monthly cost, and Cost per audiobook credit–so you can compare them apples to apples.
|Plan Level||Membership Cost||# of Credits||Annual Total Cost ($/year)||Monthly Cost ($/month)||Cost/audiobook credit|
|Audible Premium Plus (previously Gold Monthly)||$14.95/month||1 per month||$179.40||$14.95||$14.95|
|Audible Premium Plus 2-credits (previously Platinum Monthly)||$22.95/month||2 per month||$275.40||$22.95||$11.48|
|Audible Premium Plus Annual 12 credits (previously Gold Annual)||$149.50/year||12 per year||$149.50||$12.46||$12.46|
|Audible Premium Plus Annual 24 credits (previously Platinum Annual)||$229.50/year||24 per year||$229.50||$19.13||$9.56|
|Silver Monthly||$14.95/2 months||1 per 2 months||$89.70||$7.48||$14.95|
|Audible Plus||$7.95/month||No credits||$95.40||$7.95||No credits|
|[DEFUNCT] Listener Light Annual||$9.95/year||0||$9.95||$0.83|
|[DEFUNCT] Audible Channel Plan||$4.95/month||0||$59.40||$4.95|
The most common option is the Audible Premium Plus (previously Audible Gold Monthly) membership at $14.95 and 1 credit each month. Typically, your account will default to this option, which means that if you want to change your Audible membership plan, you’ll have to upgrade through your account setting or contact Customer Service.
For audiobook super-listeners, the Audible Premium Plus 2-credits (previously Platinum) level is the way to go at 2 audiobooks per month.
Silver Monthly really should be called Silver Bimonthly. This option is not advertised and will not appear when you try to switch membership levels through your account. You’ll have to contact Customer Service to switch to Silver. They are typically very accommodating (i.e., they won’t try to up-sell you) and the set up will only take a few minutes.
Silver is nice if you, like me, like to take your time listening to audiobooks. One audiobook every 2 months is a nice pace for me and most of the benefits are still included (discounts, deals, free giveaways, etc.).
Audible Monthly vs. Yearly Membership
Audiobooks are cheaper by the dozen. If you subscribe to a monthly plan, then you pay and get the audiobook credit(s) monthly (with the exception of Silver Monthly, which is bimonthly). If you subscribe to an annual plan, then you pay and get all of the credits at once–12 credits or 24 credits.
As you can see from the table above, buying in bulk saves you money. The yearly plan is equivalent to getting 2 months free on the monthly plan. For Gold, $149.50 = 10 months x $14.95/month. Same thing for Platinum (I’m using the old names just to be succinct).
So, if you’re someone who can shell out the cash upfront, the Gold Annual or Platinum Annual are worth getting to save you some dollars.
Comparing Audible Prices
Here’s my take on what is the best Audible membership cost to pay.
If you’re trying to just minimize your annual or monthly costs while still enjoying the benefits of being an Audible member, the Silver membership is a great option. At $89.70 per year or $7.48 per month, it’s very affordable. But what if you want to get more credits without paying the original prices of the audiobooks? Not to worry. Even though your credit only comes once every 2 months, you still have the option to buy more credits at any given time.
At the top of my account, Audible always has this offer to Buy 3 Extra Credits at $35.88 ($11.96/credit). Yes, you have to buy 3 at a time, but the price per credit is actually comparable to the Platinum Monthly ($11.48/credit), which is a good deal. This option is available to all members, so if you’re feeling low on credits but don’t want to commit to an upgraded membership level, this is the way to go.
On a total cost basis, the Platinum Monthly, followed by Platinum Annual, are the most expensive membership levels. However, on a per credit basis, they are in fact the cheapest. Platinum Annual gives you $9.56/credit, which is equal to $9.56/audiobook, which is a steal. Platinum Monthly gives you $11.48/credit. The Silver Monthly and Gold Monthly are the most expensive at $14.95/credit, but this price is still a good deal for audiobooks, which are above $20 a lot of the times.
If you haven’t decided which audiobooks to get for your credits, Audible allows 1-year for you to use the credit. Previously they allowed rollover, e.g. for Gold Monthly, you’re allowed to rollover up to 5 credits per month; Gold Annual, 6 credits; Platinum Monthly, 10 credits; Platinum Annual, 12 credits. I don’t think this is true anymore; the 1-year limit applies to all.
This is something to watch out for. Don’t let your Audible credits pile up to avoid losing credits.
Audible Plus (Similar to Listener Light and Channel Plan in the Past)
This membership levels is a new offering by Audible. It doesn’t come with audiobook credits, but you get access to the Plus Catalog–basically free audiobooks that you can listen to without using any credit. You don’t get the 30% discounts that members get, if you want to purchase audiobooks. You do, however, get to listen in to the various programs produced by Audible, namely the Audible Originals and podcasts. Also, they still will send you emails with deals and sales that members receive.
How to Switch Your Membership Level
To change your membership level, go to Audible.com, sign in, and go to the top of your page. From the drop-down menu next to your name, click Account Details. It will display your current membership level and your benefits. Underneath, there’s a button that says “Switch Membership”. Click the button and Audible will display several options for you.
Here are the screenshots from my account. I have Silver Monthly and Audible provides the next 4 levels for my upgrade, Audible Plus, Audible Premium Plus, Audible Premium Plus – 2 credits, Audible Premium Plus Annual – 12 credits. Based on this, I’m assuming that to get the Audible Premium Plus Annual – 24 credits, you’ll have to contact Customer Service. These may look different for you depending on your current membership level.
Choose the one you want by clicking “Get this plan” in the appropriate box.
Remember that the Silver membership is not advertised, so I don’t think it will appear in the upgrade/downgrade options. Contact Customer Service if you want this plan.
How to Determine Which Audible Membership Level is Right for You?
With all these options, how do you start choosing the right membership level? Here are the questions you should ask yourself.
1. What’s the average pace of your audiobook consumption?
If you’re going for 1/month, go with Audible Premium Plus; 2/month, Audible Premium Plus – 2 credits; 1 every 2 months, Silver. You can always buy extra credits, 3 at a time.
2. How much money do you want to spend upfront?
If you can cover the costs upfront, consider getting the annual plans since they lower the cost per audiobook by a lot.
3. How much money do you want to spend in general?
If you’re going for the lowest total cost, go with Silver Monthly. Check out the Cost/year and Cost/month columns in the table for your budgeting purposes.
Don’t Forget the 30-day Free Trial
Again, as a reminder, use the 30-day free trial first, no matter which membership level you decide on. After the 30 days, it will likely default to Gold Monthly. If you want to change it to something else, go through the steps outlined in the How to Switch Your Membership section.
For tips on how to save once you’ve signed up for a membership, go to this article.
More tips on audiobooks and Audible:
Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small compensation if you sign up through them. Would appreciate it if you do!