Monthly subscription book boxes

Hello everyone!

I’ve been looking at bookish subscription services in the UK..does anyone have experience of them? I’ve seen some of the ones in the US but the cost of shipping seems to be quite prohibitive. I’ve researched what’s out there in terms of UK based companies and have come up with three offerings. Please note that I’m in no way affiliated with any of them and these are my honest opinions. I’ve summarised what each subscription service offers but for specific detail please visit their website.
Name: Willoughby book club
Price: varies depending on genre – £34.99/ 3 months for their “contemporary” book box with free delivery in the UK. 10% off with code wbc10.
What you get: one new book (very nicely wrapped) plus unspecified “goodies” and a personal message can be included with the first order. They will also donate a book to book aid international.
Good to know: You can get a different book for free if you’ve already read the one they send – and you even get to keep the duplicate book. You can also space the service out to one every two months (or perhaps even longer) if you want. The price goes down the longer you subscribe for – a 12 month subscription for the same box is £104.99. There are lots of different genres to choose from including books for children, couples, cookbooks etc. You can’t order a one off box, the shortest subscription is three months. Not all books are letterbox friendly due to their size but you can provide an alternate shipping address. They will ship abroad – costs are detailed on their website.
Initial thoughts: I’m not sure about subscribing to something with unspecified goodies, especially at that price, although I do like the idea that a book gets given to charity. There are examples on the website of book bags, book plates, badges etc. so I guess you get a selection of these each month. From reading their extensive FAQ the people running the service seem to be really accommodating, which I find reassuring.

Name: Not on the high street
Price: £39/3 months. Free standard delivery.
What you get: a second-hand paperback (they prefer to call it vintage) with four tea bags and selected stationery (bookmark and notebook or three blank greetings cards)
Good to know: They also do one with coffee instead of tea. There’s lots of other subscriptions available (for children, cooks etc.) but for the vintage subscription box there’s no options in terms of the genre of book that you’ll receive. There’s no real saving to be had if you subscribe for a longer period of time. There are lots of delivery options including standard (free), tracked and Saturday morning as well as international shipping. Three months is the shortest period of time that you can subscribe for, one off boxes aren’t available. They don’t detail anywhere if the parcel is letterbox friendly.
Initial thoughts: I think it sounds very expensive for a second hand book that you could easily pick up in a charity shop/second hand bookshop. However, there are a lot of positive reviews on the website. Of the three options, this is the only one that isn’t a dedicated book subscription company so I get the feeling that they would be less likely to accommodate any specific requests that you may have.

Name: Prudence and the Crow
Price: £15/month.
What you get: One second hand paperback (again, described as vintage) a hand made book bag, a library style card plus other unspecified goodies (a pencil, tea, bookplate, bookmark).
Good to know: Like the Willoughby Book Club there seems to be a dedicated team behind the scheme who will do their best to meet customer expectations. For example, they don’t explicitly say that they will accept a return on a book if you already have it but they do say that they will try to work something out with you. When you sign up you complete a detailed questionnaire which will help the company to tailor the products that they send to you. This is the only subscription service where you can order a one off box. There’s no financial benefit to signing up for a longer period of time so this is a safer option if you’re not sure that a subscription service is for you. The box is letterbox friendly and doesn’t need to be signed for. There are (limited) options for international shipping.
Initial thoughts: This is definitely the prettiest website which gives the impression that the goodies are high quality and hard to find elsewhere. They have their own blog and Goodreads reading group so seem to be the most interactive of the three options.

Summary of findings
I know that the rise of websites like Amazon and supermarket book sales have lowered expectations of how much books should cost but all three options seem to be very expensive, especially the ones with a “vintage” paperback. You could pick these up cheaply in any charity shop or second hand bookstore – and who doesn’t love a good rummage through a pile of old books?

All of the subscription services seem to offer similar ‘goodies’ but I do wonder how many book bags and bookmarks you can receive before you get bored of them? It’s not like they are consumable items – I know that I have bookmarks from my childhood that I still regularly use.

I understand that a lot of the appeal of these subscription services is to get a surprise every month but you could use the money to buy your own secondhand book and order bookish items from Etsy etc. for half the price. In saying that, if you regularly buy new hardback books the Willoughby Book Club does seem to offer a possible cost saving if you factor in the cost of the goodies that you receive too.

Personally, I don’t think that a book subscription box is for me. They look beautiful and would be a nice surprise to receive but the price really puts me off. I think I’d rather have a monthly visit to a secondhand bookstore and get more books for my money whilst also supporting a local business.

Do you subscribe to a bookish subscription service? What are your opinions? Are there any UK based services that I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

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