As you might have seen in my post about bookish subscription boxes, I decided in January to subscribe to Book of the Month. I was planning to do a review after three months, but this subscription actually crashed and burned pretty quickly for me, so here we are.
I think the thing that really bothered me is that everyone presents it as a better deal than Amazon, because you’re getting a curated new release for only $14.99 a month. But comparing the books that Book of the Month sends you to the books you buy from Amazon (or Barnes & Noble or your local indie, what have you) is like comparing apples to oranges.
You see, I just thought that Book of the Month reprinted the covers and added their little logo on the front and the spine. As it turns out, they actually reprint the entire book, choosing their own colors for the naked hardback, adding their logo on the naked hardback, and using a lower quality paper (at least, it seemed lower quality to me).
I was upset when I first realized that they used different quality paper, but ultimately realized that a lot of books do. I think what sets it apart for me is I unconsciously associate hardcovers with a nicer quality paper than what’s in a lot of my mass market paperbacks, so it was jarring to feel the cheaper paper with a hardcover. I was disappointed that the book itself is completely reprinted, but decided to continue with my subscription anyways, as it’s still a pretty good deal for hardcover books, especially when you add extras to your box.
But then I was at the bookstore for my monthly book club and picked up a copy of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, which I had selected for my February Book of the Month, and it was a beautiful copy with a nice shiny cover. I couldn’t wait for my copy to show up in the mail. Except when I did, I realized that it wasn’t shiny. The material they used for the cover was nothing like the one I had fallen in love with at the bookstore. Add that to the inferior paper quality and the fact that these books are completely rebound, and I was pretty much fed up with Book of the Month.
I’m mad at myself for getting pulled in by a good deal, but I went back and looked at reviews, and not one mentioned the paper quality or the quality of the covers that Book of the Month sends out. The changes to the naked hardback were something I realized weren’t a secret when I went back and looked, as there are a number of pictures on Instagram of the naked hardbacks that clearly show the Book of the Month logo on them, though it wasn’t widely mentioned in reviews. But none of them mention the changes to the paper quality or the quality of the cover material.
So here I am having bought not two months’ worth of choices and only having paid for one with a free book deal, but having spent an extra $40 thinking I was getting a great deal by adding extra books to my boxes, only to realize that I did not get what I was expecting. Ultimately for most of the books, it doesn’t matter, but I’m still really disappointed in the inferior quality of the cover for An American Marriage.
I’m really upset because I feel like I was tricked into buying this subscription box. And I feel like an idiot for adding extra books to my box the second month even though I knew they weren’t as nice of quality. But I was ok with it until I realized that they change the material for the covers, too, and that I wasn’t getting the pretty book I thought I was.
So yeah, I’m not thrilled I subscribed to this box and added the full amount of extra books to my box each month because I don’t think this subscription accurately advertises what you’re getting. Personally I’d rather spend the extra money and get a nice copy, but that decision was taken away from me because I wasn’t given all of the necessary information to make that decision before subscribing.
Now that you know what to expect should you subscribe to Book of the Month and the paper quality and changes to the physical book don’t concern you, is it worth it?
I do think Book of the Month has a good curation, and I like that by having it sent to my home each month, I’m more likely to actually read some of these books than if I just see them as an option and have to go get them myself. I’m not convinced that the books are entirely what I want to be reading, but it’s great for helping me get out of my usual lane and try something new, even if I wind up not liking it.
I actually was working on a review with a breakdown about the selections, book reviews, and service when I determined that a rant was necessary, so I’m going to switch back to that and try to be more thorough and less betrayed in my review.
For the first few months, I decided to commit to picking a book no matter what and not utilizing the skip feature.
I can’t say I was overly impressed with the January choices, but I was really excited to join Book of the Month, so I went for it anyway. I actually hadn’t heard of most of the options or their authors, and the descriptions didn’t grab me that much, though they did cover a wide range of genres. I debated getting Red Clocks by Leni Zumas because it sounded interesting, but I think the whole gender-based dystopian market is a little oversaturated right now, so I went with The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, a thriller that promised to be for fans of Gone Girl, which I loved.
February had some more choices that were on my radar, though I was highly confused by the decision to offer Still Me by Jojo Moyes since it’s the third book in a series (Book of the Month said on social media that they feel it can stand on its own, but I still think it’s an odd choice). I considered getting The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller because I love fantasy and it doesn’t pop up too much on Book of the Month, but ultimately the plot wasn’t that interesting. I was also tempted by The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah since I’ve heard such amazing things about her book The Nightingale, but the 1970s setting wasn’t that appealing to me, so I went with An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. This one sounded intriguing, but I suspected it wouldn’t have a happily ever after, so I was hesitant to select it. Plus it’s literary fiction, which is not my favorite genre. But then I realized that Joce from SquibblesReads and Heather from Bookables listed it in their most anticipated reads of 2018 videos, and my decision was made.
The Book Review
The Woman in the Window: I wound up hating this book and DNFing it after 150 pages. To be fair, part of the point for me in trying Book of the Month is reading things I normally wouldn’t, and while I enjoy the occasional thriller, it’s not my preferred genre. But I didn’t think this was good at all. I don’t understand how the thrilling aspect promised in the blurb didn’t take place until a third of the way into an overly long book; most of what I read was just setting up the protagonist’s daily life. I did skim ahead and appreciate that that setup becomes relevant later in the book, but it was overly drawn out. My attention was never really grabbed, and by the time the thrilling aspect finally kicked in, I was over the whole thing and unwilling to commit to another 250 pages.
An American Marriage: I did not like this book at all. I knew it wouldn’t be a happy book, but I thought it’d be a really interesting look at some important topics. As it turns out, I couldn’t stand any of the characters, and I was not at all invested in what happened to them throughout this story. I actually wound up writing a full review of this book for Feminist Lit February if you want to see my full thoughts.
I didn’t subscribe long enough to get a consistent view of what to expect from shipping. My books shipped from Pennsylvania, and it took nine days for them to get to New York in January (granted, there was a snow storm that delayed shipping for a good day or two on top of the federal holiday), but then they got here by the fifth in February, which was technically prerelease for An American Marriage.
Both times my books arrived in good shape. They’re shrink-wrapped inside the box, which I think offers good protection and assures they don’t jostle around and mar the covers.
I never utilized the skip feature, though I’m wondering if you still get charged that month for using it and they just let your credits build up since Book of the Month charges you for a credit before the selection is announced. I could be totally wrong and they bill but don’t actually charge until it ships since, like I said, I didn’t utilize it, but just something to keep in mind.
One thing I wanted to note was that in February, Book of the Month seemed to drop the feature of having judges recommend the various books. I only experienced one month with the judges, so it wasn’t a huge deal to me personally, but I saw a lot of longtime subscribers express their disappointment and I agree that it was a nice feature that drew me to this subscription service. The outpouring wound up being so massive that Book of the Month published a blog post describing their selection process and promising to bring the judges’ essays back.
I will say that cancelling was a bit more of a hassle than it needed to be. You can’t just cancel on their website, you have to call in and cancel. That said, it took less than a minute for me to connect with a customer service representative when I called on a weekday afternoon, and they just had me verify my email and home address and then turned off the automatic renewal with no questions asked.
This was where I was going to mention the changes on the naked hardback and my qualms about the paper quality (I had no idea I was such a paper snob until my first Book of the Month box showed up), but I think we’ve adequately covered that…
Here are a few more photos of the differences between the Book of the Month edition and the publisher’s edition. If you click on the images and blow them up, you can see that Book of the Month tends to publish really tall editions.
I think the main takeaway here is that you should know they’re different than what you’d buy at the bookstore so that you can decide if that matters to you or not. As much as I love the instagram photos of all the Book of the Month books lined up, I personally don’t like what I view as an inferior-quality book, so I don’t think this subscription is the right fit for me.
If none of that matters to you, then move right along to the other factors that determine whether or not this subscription makes sense for you. I do think you’re getting a good deal if you just want to own a physical copy for your shelves, especially if you add extras to your box, plus there’s the curation, the skip feature, and the general ease-of-use with this subscription box. I think it’s also worth it if you’re the type of person who passes books along, because this is a way for you to read the book at a more affordable price than if you’d bought it yourself, and you don’t have to worry about what it looks like on your shelf.
I really wanted this subscription to work out for me and I’m incredibly disappointed that it didn’t. I’m telling myself that I’ll take a look at the choices every month and can still read along if I want to, but I’m pretty sure I won’t go out of my way to buy any of the monthly choices unless I was already planning to buy it, and I’m not sure I’ll feel as obligated to read it if I borrow it from the library as I would when it’s sitting on my TBR shelf.
I’m not totally writing off this subscription box and telling everyone that they shouldn’t subscribe; there’s definitely value in this subscription and all of the reasons I mentioned in my initial post that drew me to this box are still very valid. But I want you to go into it with a more informed decision than what the information available to me at the time allowed me to make.
For now, I’m going to stick to reading from my shelves, especially since I somehow bought a ton of books in January and February that I want to get to soon, and when I’m slightly less scarred from this experience, I think I’ll look at subscribing to a first editions book club like the ones at Greenlight and Parnassus that sends you a signed first edition of a curated book. You don’t get to pick your book or skip a month, but I think they’re another great way to read outside my comfort zone, plus I get the book the publisher would have sent me and it’s signed, which you know I’m a fan of. And I think Word is planning to launch some book subscription services soon that I might be interested in as well, and I really need to give the subscription boxes at The Strand another look.