Bookchoice hopes careful curation will unlock digital book subscription success

Bookchoice hopes careful curation will unlock digital book subscription success

Bookchoice wants "people to click on books for entertainment just as automatically as they’d click on a game or social network." Will its monthly subscription service do the trick?

The pitch

Bookchoice is "the digital book service in your pocket" for £3.99 a month. Every month the Bookchoice team selects eight e-books and audiobooks and sends them straight to members – from bestsellers and award-winners to the latest literary hits. Members can download books from the Bookchoice website directly onto any device (phone, computer, tablet, e-reader), or directly through the Bookchoice app. 

"We’re all about streamlining, giving people a fun list to choose from but making the book-selection process practically instant," says Bookchoice's head of international publishing, Lija Kresowaty. "We want people to click on books for entertainment just as automatically as they’d click on a game or social network while on the tube."

The team

Bookchoice was founded in 2014 by Dutch entrepreneur, Boudewijn Jansen, who previously founded and sold Tastecard, a voucher and gift card company. The business is now run by a management team of professionals from the publishing, tech, and sales industries, with offices in Amsterdam and London, and partners in Latin America, South Africa and Australia.

The London team is run by Nathan Hull, chief commercial and content officer, who was previously digital product director at Penguin Random House and senior digital marketing manager at Universal Music, where he managed deals and partnerships with Spotify, Sky and Playstation. 

Lija Kresowaty heads up the book content team, coming from a PR and marketing background in publishing, having previously worked at Penguin and Riot Communications.

Lija Kresowaty and Nathan Hull

What's the gap in the market?

Bookchoice is focused on reaching non-typical book buyers and lapsed readers.

"When I worked in publishing, I naturally spent most of my time thinking about reaching “readers”, but what attracted me to the Bookchoice model was its focus on expanding that pool of people," Kresowaty explains. "This thinking has been key to its early success in the Netherlands. Our track record working with big brands has shown that our model has the potential to really tap into new segments and bring in people who aren’t typical book buyers.

"We also think our focused approach gives readers both the freedom and inclination to try new things. So a literary fiction reader might go in and immediately choose a Man Booker winner, but for their next read try a new crime novel or a debut – books they might not normally be persuaded to buy but which catch their eye in our selection of eight."

Success so far

The service launched in the Netherlands, where it now has around 40,000 paid members. It has successfully run a major campaign with the ANWB (Dutch Automobile Association), and in Spain has started working with Gas Natural, the largest gas company in the country.

Bookchoice launched in the UK in November, and has already run a campaign with Three Mobile.

"We’ve been delighted to already be featuring some real standout titles, including Sebastian Barry’s brilliant Days Without End, the audiobook for Marian Keyes’ The Break, and coming in January, The Buried Giant from Kazuo Ishiguro," Kresowaty says. "Another big moment for us this year was featuring Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage on the Spanish platform, as part of a global exclusive, a full week before it was available anywhere else in Spanish." 

Biggest challenges?

Speed. "Our model doesn’t favour a slow burn approach," Kresowaty admits. "We’ve had to get great books, major partners and lots of users almost right from the get-go. And the publishing world isn’t always known for being quick to innovate, compared to music, film and TV. But actually, we’ve been really encouraged at the speed at which we’ve already started working with some major publishers and partners – we’re certainly not the only ones who think the industry is ripe for change."

Ultimate ambition?

Next steps for Bookchoice involve expanding beyond the initial three languages, and working with the emerging book markets in countries like Brazil. Going forwards, the team is also eager to surface some fresh talent.

"In terms of our book selection, while we keep focusing on growing our user base and building trust with them, I’d love to be in a position to really break otherwise unknown books - taking a page from what we’ve already seen physical book clubs doing," Kresowaty says.

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Decide what you really want to do well and devote yourself entirely to those core aims at the start. And don’t be afraid to stop doing the things that aren’t working."