Book subscription boxes: industry hope or all hype?

Book subscription boxes: industry hope or all hype?

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.

Boxes are flourishing in the States too, particularly in the YA space, with the likes of OwlcrateLitjoy, Cozy Reader Club and Booksquisite Box Japan all competing for print-hungry eyeballs.

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.