Could a bespoke book subscription service break you out of your reading rut or encourage you to explore new genres?
Heywood Hill bookshop has stood on the same street since 1936. It inhabits a Georgian townhouse at 10 Curzon Street in Mayfair, London, a blue plaque outside commemorating its most famous employee, Nancy Mitford. Behind its heavy wooden door, a customer explains that she is visiting the UK from Australia, and would like to speak to someone about the shop’s subscription service. The word has clearly travelled far.
From chocolate to coffee to beer to grooming products, subscription boxes are big business, and books are no exception. There are countless online companies that ship out a monthly read, some adding artisan teas, hot chocolate, or an adaptation on DVD of the book. But Heywood Hill’s subscription is as bespoke as possible: each package is individually tailored to the reader’s tastes following a conversation between the subscriber and a bookseller. Camille Van de Velde, one of Heywood Hill’s five subscription booksellers, takes me down a rickety staircase into the basement from where the scheme is run. Staff are at work in a series of pokey interlocking rooms, stacking titles on shelves, ready to be wrapped, packed and shipped. They won’t be specific about numbers, but each has hundreds of people to choose for each month, and it has, by all accounts, transformed the business.
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