Regular readers of FutureBook will have noticed book subscription boxes crop up, er, rather a lot on the site over the past few months.
Last year we profiled Reading in Heels, a female-focused box that went on to become a finalist in our 2017 BookTech pitch-off - and which revealed last week that it is now producing a paperback edition of an anthology originally crowdfunded by Unbound. We've also profiled two more subscription boxes aimed at women - Scotland's Rare Birds Book Club and the beta startup Books That Matter - as well as Bookabees, a "library, book club and subsciption box in one" for kids.
So what's behind this influx of boxes? Have the founders truly spotted a gap in the market or are they jumping on a bandwagon that looks speedy, but may yet spectacularly derail?
A new survey suggests there's method behind the snail mail. uOpen.com, a new marketplace for subscription boxes launched this week, has released some research on the state of the market. It found that:
- 13.85% of Brits are signed up to book subscription boxes, spending £56.32 (£512 million a year)
- Men are spending a quarter more than women on monthly book subscriptions (£65.30 and £48.94 respectively, mean average)
- Younger people (16 – 34) are the biggest fans of book subscription boxes with more monthly subscribers than other age brackets
- However older people (45 - 54) are spending larger amounts per month, some as much as £300 or more
- The north east are the biggest spenders of online book subscription boxes (£82.29 mean average)
The findings are particularly exciting because they suggest that subscription boxes are reaching a new audience beyond the book trade's norm - one that is predominantly young, male and based outside London.
But - a big but - the sample size behind the stats is small, with only 2000 consumers taking part.
So what do you think about the influx of book subscription boxes? As a publisher, do you see them as an exciting way to reach or recruit new readers? As an author, do you - like Emily Hill - see them as an opportunity to bypass the traditional industry and connect directly with niche fans? As a bookseller, would you consider curating subscription boxes for your own community?
Or is it just all so much commerically unrigorous, me-too hype?
Get the debate going on the comments below, and/or on Twitter, tagging our feed @TheFutureBook.