Readers Find Powell's Books' Subscription Club "Indiespensable"
Club's debut title sells out in 9 hours
February 25, 2008, Portland, OR Powell's Books announced its new subscription club, dubbed "Indiespensable™," via its biweekly e-newsletter during the West Coast's morning commute. By evening, the bookstore had sold through its entire run of the first featured title and was accepting reservations for volume two.
"We're still deciding where to cap the print run for the second volume," says Dave Weich, the program's creator.
With Indiespensable, Powell's demonstrates once again why the New York Times recently called the 37-year-old independent Oregon business a "tastemaker."
Subscribers to Indiespensable receive nine featured titles per year, approximately one every six weeks. Every package also includes at least one special surprise. The bookseller's web site explains, "Maybe a pre-publication copy of some great new book, or a bonus DVD or CD, or a literary periodical, or handmade chocolate."
Indiespensable debuts with a new novel by PEN-USA Award winner Lydia Millet, How the Dead Dream. Powell's brokered a deal with Counterpoint, the book's publisher, to create 200 custom, full-cloth slipcases available only to subscribers. The slipcases encase hardcover first editions, each signed and numbered by the author.
"It's hard to convey how invigorating Millet's fiction is," Toronto's Globe and Mail wrote of the novel, "how intelligent and thematically rich, how processes of thought are themselves made urgent and lively through the specificity of her observations and sentences that offer startlement, small and large."
Richard Nash, Millet's editor and Counterpoint's executive publisher, declares, "I'm staking my career on her. Lydia is the one."
Meanwhile, at the offices of Portland's venerable bookseller, the staff prepares.
"We get the author cards back from the printer on Friday," says marketing manager Kim Sutton, reviewing a list of tasks to check off before Indiespensable's first shipment mails on March 5. Sutton admits, "I'm just really glad we know that Elephant's Deli is baking the cookies for this box."
Weich jokes, "We aim for nothing less than a fellowship of salivating readers."
Skeptics, however, remain. Rumors persist that most early subscribers are members of Lydia Millet's extended family. Can Powell's Books be trusted if its favorite color is a nine-way tie?
Powell's will announce Indiespensable's next featured title on March 4.
Subscribers pay $39.95 per box and can cancel at any time. Customers who want to learn more, or subscribe, can do so here.
An independent bookseller based in Portland, Oregon, Powells.com offers the inventory of six Powell's brick-and-mortar stores and five warehouses approximately four million books in all. Online since 1994, Powells.com has developed a unique business model based on a broad inventory of new, used, rare, and out-of-print books, and a stable of internationally respected book reviewers and content partners. The award-winning site features timely content from the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, and others, plus staff picks, monthly contests, and exclusive author interviews and essays.