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You've Got Mail: Book Boxes Offer Novels And Novelty Items

The content of monthly book boxes varies, but most come with a book or sometimes even a few, plus book-specific or reading related extras.
Mayra Linares
The content of monthly book boxes varies, but most come with a book or sometimes even a few, plus book-specific or reading related extras.

Subscription box services generally are booming. For a fee, these companies will send you a monthly, curated selection of maker games, dog treats, craft supplies — you name it. And one of the strongest categories in this growing market is book boxes.

If you're into mystery novels, there's a box for you. Fantasy? Romance? YA? You're in luck. There are also boxes aimed at specific age groups — for teens, middle schoolers and toddlers. And it's not just books. The boxes often come filled with character merchandise, notebooks, bookmarks and other book-inspired gear.

Liz Cadman of the review site My Subscription Addiction says there are more than 50 book box subscriptions out there, which vary in the size of their following, pricing and what you get inside. She says Uppercase Box and OwlCrate are two of the most popular boxes, both catering to the Young Adult market.

"Book box subscriptions have definitely grown over the past year in terms of popularity," says Cadman. "Over two years ago they really didn't exist in subscription box forms."

Getting books in the mail isn't a new idea. The Book of the Month Club started sending books by post in 1926. It still operates today, but allows readers to say what genres they're interested in and pick the book they get each month. Book boxes are different because you typically don't know what books are coming your way, and because of the extras that come along with them.

Cadman points out that when it comes to subscription book boxes, the prices are generally good relative to what you would spend on the same products on a site like Amazon. But part of the deal is that the boxes are curated for you, and you may not like every item you get.

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Leah Czlapinski of Southern California, who subscribes to the LitJoy Crate for her toddler daughter, Sawyer, likes that element of surprise though. She says the service has helped her discover books she hadn't heard of before and that both she and her daughter look forward to the bright yellow box arriving in the mail. Czlapinski is a single mom and on a tight budget, but still, thinks spending about $30 a month for the boxes and shipping is worth it.

"They've been a really great tool for growing her vocabulary at such a young age. You ask her 'Where's the hat?' in a picture and she'll point to the hat and try to say the words," Czlapinski says. "I mean what's better than that?"

I get her enthusiasm. Five months ago, I started subscribing to Owlcrate — and so far, it's been great. I really enjoy reading the books that come each month, especially Marissa Meyer's Heartless, which came in the November box. Meyer's book is a prequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which dives into the Queen of Hearts' backstory. I'd been looking forward to its release for a while. As for the extras in the boxes, I really dig all of the Harry Potter-related items and illustrations.

Here's a sampling of the some 50 services out there - and what's inside their December boxes:


Tag Line: Magical Monthly Reads

Target Audience: Young Adult (recently launched OwlCrate JR caters to readers age 8 to 12)

What's In The Box:

  • Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
  • Letter from author
  • Signed book plate
  • Harry Potter mystery mini Funko figurine
  • Lord of the Rings enamel pin
  • Game of Thrones family house coasters
  • The Chronicles of Narnia illustrated greeting card
  • Sticker inspired by A Darker Shade of Magic
  • Price: $29.99 a month, plus shipping


    Tag Line: Get handpicked books delivered every month

    Target Audience: Variety

    What's In The "Read to Me" Box (for ages 2 to 4):

  • New Red Bike by James Ransome
  • The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner, illustrated by Kristina Swarner
  • My Father's Flying Machine by Warne
  • Santa Duck by David Milgrim
  • Price: $9.99 a month, plus shipping

    Uppercase Box

    Tag Line: YA Books Delivered to You

    Target Audience: Young Adult

    What's In The Box:

  • Signed copy of Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill
  • Ever the Hunted temporary tattoo
  • 2017 Planner for Bookworms
  • Book planner stickers
  • Gold book planner clip
  • Price: $23 a month, plus shipping

    The Book Drop

    Tag Line: Bringing the independent bookstore to you from Bethany Beach, Delaware

    Target Audience: Variety

    What's In The Children's Box (for ages 8 to 12):

  • Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Chapter sample from Holm's newest novel, Full of Beans
  • Bookmarks
  • Signed book plate
  • Letter from the author
  • Price: $9 a month, plus shipping (prices vary for other box options)

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    Wynne Davis is a digital reporter and producer for NPR's All Things Considered.