As a general rule, I enjoy the feeling of being included in something special — whether that something is a club or a membership of some sort. Moreover, I like the notion that I could possibly be a member of something more exclusive for any reason — whether it is because I have opted into early or through my own efforts. This is why, for example, I keep paying the annual Pearl Jam Ten Club membership fee — being a member since September of 2002 gives me access to significantly better tickets than someone who may have joined this year.
That being said, I found out a few months ago about a service offered by the wonderful bookstore Powell’s in Portland, Oregon. I became aware of Powell’s when I went to Portland to visit my brother, who has lived there for several years. The store is well known for its independent spirit and great choices in recommending authors who are less mainstream than the traditional ones found on bestseller lists.
The way that the service works is as follows: for forty dollars billed every six weeks, you receive a package containing three goodies. Specifically, you get one hardcover book, first printing, most usually in a specially designed slipcover, and always autographed by the author. Secondly, you get another book — sometimes it is an advanced reader copy, errors and all (authors are human and do make errors, after all!) and other times it isn’t a book at all and is a box of chocolates instead! I’m usually not too excited when I see a box of chocolates as they are usually not certified as kosher. Thirdly, there is a treat chosen by the staff at Powell’s. One month they sent a beautiful canvas Powell’s bag. Another month, they sent a metal water bottle — to encourage people to carry around water rather than buy plastic bottles of water.
The goodies are not why I subscribe to Indiespensable — it’s all about the books for me. For me, it is similar to having a friend that works in a bookstore that, knowing the books coming out, recommends one to me. I haven’t found every book in the Indiespensable selection to be amazing but for the most part I have enjoyed every single book that they have sent me. While I generally keep these books in the home — it’s no fun carrying a hard covered book on the train — it makes for good reading on weekends.
The choice of what book is to be sent out is not a mystery — the Indiespensable web site actually announces the book choice in advance so you can decide if you want to sign up for just the one period or on an ongoing basis. Watch Indiespensable every six weeks because they don’t have an infinite number of slots and once they run out, you have no choice but to sign up for the following period and hope for the best.