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The Ultimate Guide to Book Subscription Boxes

I’m often asked for my take on bookish boxes and which subscription service I recommend. While I’m not currently subscribed to any (stay tuned for an upcoming post on why), I have tried out a few in the past, including Bookish Box, Illumicrate, and Fairyloot. I always opt for the book-only subscription, as I’m not particularly interested in the trinkets and goodies that come with the full boxes. Being based in South Africa, I have to use a third-party shipping service for international shipments, which means that larger, heavier boxes with higher values can come with exorbitant shipping, handling, and customs fees (sometimes as much as 100-150%).

 

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Bookish Box – YA & Adult Book Only, $63

Bookish Box was my first-ever subscription service, and I’ve been a loyal subscriber for quite some time. One of the things I appreciate most about Bookish Box is their commitment to featuring indie authors and discovering new and exciting books to include in their subscription service and special editions. They consistently deliver unique and beautifully designed editions, and I’m always impressed with the custom-designed covers, stunning hardcover designs, and signed editions. They also go above and beyond to engage with their community, offering sneak peeks, responding to requests, and participating in chats and reading challenges.

However, I have noticed that Bookish Box tries to do a lot at once, with numerous subscription offerings and frequent special edition releases. While I love the custom components, I’ve found errors in some of their books in the past, which was frustrating. They have since hired proofreaders, but this was after I had already cancelled my subscription. I also feel that Bookish Box can be quite controversial at times, with their defensive responses to negative feedback and a sometimes mean-spirited community. Despite these issues, I still believe that Bookish Box is a great option for those who want to support indie authors and receive unique, beautifully designed editions.

 

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Illumicrate – Book Only (ยฃ17) & Afterlight Bi-Monthly (ยฃ20)+ shipping and VAT (if applicable).

Illumicrate is a top-notch book subscription service that I highly recommend. Their relationship with traditional publishers enables them to consistently offer highly anticipated new releases from established authors. They are a seasoned player in the subscription service market and have honed their skills in managing customer expectations. Even in cases of delays, their communication is clear, and they take accountability, which sets them apart from their competitors. Their Editions may not always have fancy bells and whistles, but they are of high quality, often signed by the author and feature unique endpapers or sprayed or stenciled edges, making them great collector’s items.

In addition to their Book Only subscription, they offer the Afterlight bi-monthly service that focuses on contemporary romances. While there isn’t a book-only option, the price includes 2-3 treats, which is excellent value for money.

One of the standout features of Illumicrate is their ability to skip a subscription for a month easily. This is especially convenient when you’re not interested in the book of the month or need to cut back on your spending (ahem, hard relate.). The process is seamless, and you can skip as many times as you need, unlike Bookish Box, which only allows three skips in a 12-month period.

Illumicrate handles the sales of special editions superbly, offering active subscribers early access to these editions a week before others. This ensures that customers who want these editions can purchase them without disappointment or frustration.

Overall, Illumicrate is a reliable and consistent subscription service that offers high-quality books and excellent customer service.

 

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Fairyloot – Adult Book Only, $28 USD / ยฃ20 GBP + shipping and VAT (if applicable).

I understand that Fairyloot is known for their beautiful editions and I was excited to receive their Adult Book Only variant. However, my enthusiasm waned quickly when I realized that after receiving only two books, I was not satisfied with the quality of their editions. Although their YA variants seem to be well-received, I found their Adult Book editions to be lackluster at best. The covers were simply alternate designs of the original, not newly designed, and while the books were signed, they appeared to have a close relationship with traditional publishers, resulting in a lot of their featured upcoming books being the same as those being featured by other subscription services like Illumicrate and Bookish Box. Given this, I did not see the value in having multiple copies of the same book, particularly when the first two Fairyloot Editions were not as impressive as those from other subscription services I was subscribed to at the same time.

Although I am currently not subscribed to any book box services, I must say that if I were to pick one to re-subscribe to, it would undoubtedly be Illumicrate. If you have had any experiences with bookish subscription services, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to suggest any services that you would like me to review and feature in my upcoming blog posts.