cartoon of a woman opening a box of books (created by AI, Dalle-3)

Are Book Subscription Boxes Worth It? Honest Thoughts from a Book-Crazy Collector

One day you’re scrolling through Instagram or TikTok and come across a post featuring a gorgeous book with custom artwork and sprayed edges. It might just be the most beautiful book you’ve ever seen.

Suddenly, you must have it — but wait! You can only get it if you join a monthly book box subscription service.

This is pretty much how the tale went for me, and I know I’m in good company.

Book subscription boxes have become really popular in recent years, thanks to the explosion of “BookTok” during the pandemic — so much so that there are months-long waitlists for some of them. But are book subscription boxes worth it, or are they an overpriced gimmick? 

Honestly, it depends on your perspective and what you hope to get out of the subscription. As someone who is currently subbed to two boxes (and on the waitlist for many more), I can attest that there are two sides to the coin. 

Here we’ll look at the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself.

Image generated by AI using Dall-E 3

What are Monthly Book Subscription Boxes?

Before we get into the pros and cons, it might help to clarify what book boxes are. Basically, it’s a monthly book subscription box that sends you a book every month, sometimes with theme-related goodies inside. They each work a bit differently, but most of them will not tell you ahead of time what the book is about but will tell you what the book box’s theme will be. (Although you can usually find out the titles based on the hints provided.)

Some of the most popular book subscription boxes are:

  • Owlcrate

  • Fairyloot

  • Illumicrate

  • LitJoy

  • Goldleaf

  • Bookish box

Some of these services offer multiple subscription types for different age groups and genres, including YA books, adult fantasy, horror, and romance. In some cases, you can subscribe to either the book-only option or the full box option, which includes themed items from various fandoms.

There are also subscriptions out there for younger readers and children’s books, but this article will focus on young adults and adult book boxes.

Pros of Book Subscription Boxes

Personally, there are a lot of things I love about getting a monthly book box (obviously, or I wouldn’t be subscribed to any.) Here’s a breakdown of the main reasons.

Communities That Love the Same Books as You

One of the most frustrating things about being an avid reader is that almost no one around me reads as much as I do — or if they do, they don’t like the same type of books as me. That means that every time I read a fantastic new book, I’m left with no one to talk about it with.

However, most subscription services have an online community where subscribers (or even just those on their email list) can participate in discussions about books. Some even have livestreams with the authors! It is a fun way to connect with other people who like the same genre as you.

Increased Motivation to Read

Finding books to read can sometimes be an overwhelming prospect. With so many great books being released all the time, where do you even start to choose one? With a monthly book subscription, that choice gets made for you, which may increase your motivation to read more.

I got some hidden gems that I would have never otherwise thought to pick up. For instance, Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli is my favorite romantasy for young adults that I’ve read this year, but I would have never picked it up if I hadn’t gotten it through my Owlcrate young adult subscription.

Something Fun to Look Forward To

Call it the kid in me, but there’s something exciting about getting book mail, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. I mean, look at how much fun I’m having in this unboxing video:

@corriesstories This month’s Owlcrate was so good! Really excited to read the book and lots of fun goodies too. #thelastbloodcarver #owlcratespoilers #unboxingvideo #booktok #specialeditionbooks ♬ original sound – corriesstories

Exclusive Beautiful Books

Many subscription boxes feature exclusive versions of hardcover books that aren’t available anywhere else. This typically includes things like:

  • Exclusive artwork on the dustjacket and end pages

  • Foiled-edges

  • Handwritten letter from the author

  • Signed by the author

  • Sprayed or stenciled edges

These features make the book irresistible to many book collectors, including yours truly! Some (though certainly not all) of these books also become rather valuable, as they are limited editions and signed by the author.

Cons of Book Subscription Boxes

Clearly, book subs have a lot going on for them. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Here are some cons for the case against joining such subscriptions.

It’s Dang Expensive

The cost of monthly book subscription boxes is by far and away the biggest con. Let’s be honest: books are expensive enough as it is, but you’ll be paying quite a bit more for most of these book subscriptions, especially if yours comes with “goodies.”

This is especially true if you live outside of the US. For example, the Owlcrate YA book box is $35.99 per month, but the shipping to Canada costs an extra $19.99. Throw in taxes and the exchange rate, and suddenly you’re looking at $75+ for a single book box.

Even if you live in the States, where the shipping costs and exchange rates aren’t so much of a burden, $35.99 a month works out to over $400 per year. If you have multiple subscriptions, it gets even more expensive.

So, if you’re a reader on a tight budget, book subscriptions might feel wasteful when you can get a year’s worth of books on your Kindle for a fraction of the price.

You Probably Won’t Use Many of the “Goodies”

The goodies that come with the box are fun and cute. Are they particularly useful? Not so much. Goodies are usually somewhat random every month – I’ve received everything from umbrellas and washcloths to tote bags and bookmarks. Some of them are more useful than others. For example, I find I can never have too many bookmarks.

But enamel pins and stickers? Most of it ends up accumulating in a “stuff box” I keep on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.

Long Waitlists

Even if you decide that you do want to join a book subscription, you may end up waiting a long time to have an opportunity to join one. I had to wait two months to get an invite to the YA book box for Owlcrate, and I’m still waiting for an invite to the adult subscription.

Illumicrate’s waitlist was about three months, and Fairyloot’s? I’m not sure I’ll ever hear from them; I’ve seen people on Instagram and TikTok say they’ve already been on the waitlist for six months or more.

You May Not Like Every Book

Since you don’t get to choose what book is sent to you (for many of these subscriptions), you may end up getting sent one that you either have no interest in reading or that disappoints you — and then you’re stuck with a fancy doorstop. The books that you’re sent from most of these subscriptions are not based on your personal reading preferences beyond genre.

Subscriptions Can Play on Your FOMO

Since each month’s book is an exclusive, limited edition, you might not skip a month because you fear missing out. What’s even worse is that many of these services, like Owlcrate, Illumicrate, and Fairlyloot, hold special sales that take place outside of their subscription and will sell them first to subscribers.

And if it’s a popular book, it usually doesn’t make it to the public sale. This can leave you feeling like you have to stay subscribed or you will miss out on an upcoming sale for a book you really want.

You have to be able to rise above your FOMO when you sub to these boxes!

TBR Overwhelm

Perhaps the most insidious problem with book subscription boxes is that they accumulate faster than you think; in the blink of an eye, you may find yourself with a stack of 20+ books and no time to read any of them.

This has been a real concern for me because my TBR (to be read) list is long enough as it is, and I read a lot. If you only read a book or two a month, you may find the constant influx of new reading material too overwhelming.

Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Subscriptions

Although monthly book subscription boxes have disadvantages, there are things you can do to make your subscription work well for you. Here are some of the hacks I’ve learned to prevent overwhelm and unnecessary expenses:

Stay Organized

If you are subscribed to multiple boxes, keep a spreadsheet detailing all your subscriptions, payment dates, and titles.

I also include all my preorders and special sales on this list so I can keep track of exactly how much money I’m spending and when. If I see my estimated spending for the upcoming month is over budget, I will pare back somewhere, whether that’s canceling a preorder or skipping a month on one or more of my subscriptions.

Use the Skip Feature Liberally

Many book subscription boxes offer the ability to skip a month. What I like to do is find out what the upcoming book is; whenever they announce the month’s theme, there are usually enough hints for me to figure it out, and if not, then I poke around on forums or BookTok until I find out what the book is.

If I notice that two subscriptions are doing the same book, I will cancel one of them so I don’t end up with duplicates. (Except in rare cases where I don’t mind having multiple copies of the same book.)

Then I looked up that book on Goodreads and decided if it was something I was interested in reading. If it isn’t, I will skip it and won’t get charged for that month.

Determine Your Read-to-TBR Ratio

If you’re an avid reader or hungry for something new to read and consume books as soon as they come into your possession, then you can skip this tip. However, if you’re the kind of book-hoarding dragon who constantly finds themselves drowning in a pile of unread books, you may want to consider skipping or canceling one of your subscriptions.

Consider the Book-Only Options

The goodies can be fun but as I’ve mentioned earlier, a lot of them aren’t particularly useful. It’s cheaper if you can snag a book-only subscription box!

Book Subscription Alternatives

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of paying a fee every month for a new and beautiful exclusive book, you don’t have to get a book subscription box at all! There are tons of places where you can buy special editions without one.

Owlcrate, Illumicrate, FairlyLoot, and LitJoy all have shops where you can buy books left over from previous months subscriptions and sales.

Besides that, you can also find beautiful special edition books elsewhere, including:

  • Amazon

  • Waterstones

  • Barnes & Nobel

Be sure to check out this guide to find more beautiful books without a subscription!

Final Thoughts on Book Box Subscriptions

So, are book subscription boxes worth it? For me, it’s absolutely worth it because it’s about more than reading them — I also enjoy collecting beautiful books and the experience of unboxing them.

That said, having a physical book collection isn’t for everyone, and there’s a fine line between curating a collection and overconsuming due to FOMO, so just be mindful of that before you choose to sign up for one!


What are the best book subscription boxes?

Owlcrate, Illumicrate, Bookish Box, and Fairyloot are among the most popular book subscription services.

What genres can you find book boxes for?

Fantasy is one of the most popular genres of book, but you can also find subscriptions for romantasy (Fairyloot), Horror (Illumicrate Evernight), Romance (Illumicrate Afterlight), and YA fantasy (Owlcrate).

Are monthly subscription books of high quality?

Owlcrate, Illumicrate, and Fairlyloot all offer very high quality books with unique art, author letter and signature, and sprayed or stenciled edges. I’ve never been disappointed in a book’s quality!

What kind of goodies are in the boxes?

Depending on the subscription, the types of add-ons you get in a box can vary widely. I’ve gotten everything from bookmarks, stickers, enamel pins, silicone snack containers, tote bags, and umbrellas.

What about affordable book subscription boxes?

If you care less about unique artwork, signatures, sprayed edges, etc., you might want to consider a book-of-the-month subscription, which is quite affordable and also gives you a selection of books to choose from each month.

Similar Posts