A Box for ‘Bad Readers’? Bookish Gifts in Subscription Book Boxes


Subscription book box services are currently booming. The curators of the Once Upon a Book Club box promise their readers to “bring books to life” by compiling a monthly book subscription box with story-related gifts. Referring to concepts by Merve Emre (the paraliterary), Marie-Laure Ryan (immersion) and Arthur M. Jacobs/Raoul Schrott (NCPM), this article will first develop an idea of the (allegedly) ‘bad reader’ and then explore why this type of reader is the ideal customer for Once Upon a Book Club. The focus of the analysis lies on the role of the gifts as paraliterary objects and the question of how they can facilitate immersive processes and therefore foster the practices of paraliterary reading.

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    Note on the method: In order to classify the gifts, I went through the entries in the archive of 2019 Adult Boxes. Considering the definitions and examples for useful and story-significant items on the website as well as the quotes associated to each gift, I categorized the gifts as either useful or story-significant. In a second step I identified higher-order categories and counted how many items could be associated to these categories. Every item relates to only one category.


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Correspondence to Marina Lehmann.

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Lehmann, M. A Box for ‘Bad Readers’? Bookish Gifts in Subscription Book Boxes. Pub Res Q (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-020-09735-z

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  • Subscription
  • Book box
  • Paraliterary
  • Gifts
  • NCPM
  • Once Upon a Book Club