I’ve been a loyal Book of the Month subscriber for almost two years now. While I don’t think they’re a perfect brand and their product varies in curation quality, I do think this subscription is worth it for some people. (Currently, I include myself in that population of people.)
However, I have seen complaints pop up online via Facebook, Reddit, and other reviewers. I find some validity in their complaints and I wanted to take a good, hard look at the complaints all laid out together. I’ll be juxtaposing my own position with these complaints.
Some of the complaints I often see are from people who are, frankly, short a few dozen brain cells. It is what it is. However, reasonable complaints that I think we’ve all considered previously are outlined below.
Complaint #1: Poor Quality Books
This is one of the most common complaints I see when people talk about why they don’t like Book of the Month. There’s no gloss, embossing, or foil on the dust jackets (but there is embossing on the book itself). There’s also a lower quality of paper used, although I personally don’t tend to notice this.
For someone who often purchases expensive hardcovers and is deadset on having the highest quality of the book, then the lower quality of BOTM books may be a huge turnoff.
I’ve also seen people mention that the books won’t hold their value as first editions if they become classics in the future. If you are a person who is investing in their library with the intent of having valuable books in the future, then BOTM likely isn’t a good option for you.
My personal opinion here is that the story is the same whether it’s the fancy glossy and foiled edition that’s $30 or the BOTM edition that’s roughly $17 (or even less if it’s an add-on). If you’re a person who reads a lot, then sacrificing a little bit of quality to save money is usually the right move.
There are also concerns that sometimes the books get printed with pages upside down or missing pages. This hasn’t happened to me but, anecdotally, the people who have talked about this happening to them have had their books replaced when they reached out to customer support.
This complaint is one that you just have to consider for yourself what is most important to you. I personally like that my BOTM editions look the same when nicely lined up on my shelves. I don’t mind the slightly lower quality of books because I don’t care as much about the looks of the dust jacket.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I value high-quality hardbacks, or do I want more affordable books?
Complaint #2: Book of the Month Logo Is on (Most) Covers
This is another complaint that’s just a fact of the subscription. Book of the Month logos appears on almost all the covers. Simon & Schuster’s books seem to be the exception to this rule likely due to some contractual limitation.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I dislike the look of the logo on the side of BOTM editions? Is it enough to make me not want those editions on my shelves?
Complaint #3: Book Curation Isn’t Diverse Enough
This complaint I file into the category of ‘curation complaints’. And I promise you, there are a lot of them.
I have seen an obvious effort to include diverse books both based on topic and on authors. They currently have 49 books dubbed feminist and 43 marked with LGBTQ+ themes. This is based on their own categorization.
Based on the past few months the skew of male to female authors has leaned heavily toward females. They often have books that look at themes of race and social issues.
There has been some upset that authors that aren’t Black were included in the selections during Black History Month, authors who weren’t LGBTQ+ were included during Pride Month, and authors who weren’t AAPI were included during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
This could be malicious or it could be due to contracts and publication dates. I’d assume it’s the latter if I’m being honest with you. However, if diverse curation is the top priority in your reading selection, it may be easier to follow release dates and purchase books accordingly rather than relying on a corporation to properly curate diverse books. I’d also assume (emphasis on ‘assume’ as I don’t have contract specifics) that the authors benefit more when you buy their book as a normal edition instead of through BOTM.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I want to only read books that are considered diverse?
Complaint #4: Book Curation Is Too Political
This is another complaint I’ve seen pop up quite a bit recently. If books that cover social issues are included then people get uptight about politics being in their books. I’m not exactly sure what they expect to occur in contemporary books that take place in our world where politics happen. There are also enough options that if political things bother you then you can pick the selections where it won’t be mentioned.
I can see the aggravation if every book was solely focused on social issues or political issues. Sometimes I want to just enjoy a book without having to focus on the real world. A fluffy romance void of any real-world problems is excellent, same can be said for an action-adventure or sci-fi fantasy. We don’t always want to be screamed at about life issues that are intertwined heavily with the social and political.
However, if politics triggers you that much then you may want to consider curating your own books or consider opening your mind and reading from a variety of viewpoints, both those you do and don’t agree with—it’s good for you.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Will I get upset if I read books that challenge or are outside of my political ideology?
Complaint #5: Boxes Only Shipped to Those in the United States
This is another complaint that can’t be argued either way. Book of the Month only ships to those in the United States. I know some Canadians that have their books shipped to an American address and drive down to get them. There are also forwarding systems set up so those that live outside of the United States can receive the book boxes, from what I understand. However, these are more expensive.
If you are outside of the US, you may want to consider alternatives to Book of the Month due to the cost increase in getting your box to you.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I live outside the United States? Do I want to deal with the added cost and headache of getting my box to me each month? Are there better alternatives that ship to my country?
Complaint #6: Poor Book Curation (Genre and Quality)
This is perhaps the largest and most common complaint I come across, mostly because there are a not insignificant people complaining about book curation each and every month. It isn’t always the same people but there are always complaints that the curation isn’t high-quality enough or there isn’t enough genre rep.
Thrillers, historical fiction, and contemporary fiction are the most often represented genres according to the last year of selections (July 2021 to June 2022).
While romance, fantasies, and literary fiction are also represented a great deal. If you love memoirs, mysteries, and other genres then you are likely to be disappointed.
I do find that Book of the Month doesn’t always evenly distribute its selections each month. (Sometimes there are multiple historical fictions in a single month of selections, etc.)
Your best bet is to browse the last 12 months of BOTM selections and determine if you find books that are worth picking each month. You can also consider if you’re the type of reader to step outside of their comfort zone.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I only like one genre of book? Would I consider buying books outside of my preferred genre?
Complaint #7: No Returns or Refunds
Book of the Month currently doesn’t allow you to return a book you didn’t like or be funded for not enjoying a book. I think this is a silly complaint. This gives me the same energy as people who read ebooks in their entirety and return it to get their money back.
Books are entertainment. You’re investing in entertainment. Sometimes the entertainment is a 5-star experience. Sometimes it’s not.
If the book is damaged or if you are sent the wrong book, BOTM has been known to provide a new, undamaged or correct book.
However, if you’re genuinely upset because you can’t return a book you started reading or finished reading and didn’t like then I think you need a dose of self-reflection. You’re giving off the same energy as someone who wants a refund after watching a movie or who buys an item of clothing, wears it out, and returns it the next day only to do the same thing with a new item of clothing. Morals, folks. Consider them.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Am I the type of person to return books I start reading or have read in their entirety?
Complaint #8: Can’t Order More Than 3 Books a Month
I know quite a few BOTM subscribers who have multiple box subscriptions so they can load up on more than three BOTM books each month.
I think this is a problem for those who read more than three books a month or have a smaller TBR at home.
While I do have a bunch of books on my to-buy list through BOTM, I simply slowly chip away at them when I don’t have main picks or new add-ons I want in a month.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: How many books do I read a month? Do I not have a large TBR sitting on my shelves currently?
Complaint #10: Too Many Repeat or Well-Known Authors
A major complaint in regards to BOTM curation is that they include too many repeat or well-known authors.
They have a few authors they include quite often, including Riley Sager, Blake Crouch, Katherine Center, Simone St. James, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, and Helen Hoang, among others.
Personally, I like when they include more books by authors I like as they can then be grouped together on my bookshelf (otherwise they get separated for aesthetic reasons).
However, if they keep repeating an author you dislike it can be annoying. However, there hasn’t been a time when every single author was a repeat author (that I know of). Don’t forget, each month gives you at least five options and if those five don’t appeal then you can generally pick a member fave.
The best way to approach this situation is to look at the past year and consider there were 21 debuts over 12 months. Only one month of the last twelve didn’t include at least one debut. And those are just debuts, not necessarily lesser-known authors.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I know want to read any repeat or well-known authors?
Complaint #11: Too Many Unknown Authors
If you noticed that complaint #10 is a direct contradiction to complaint #11, then you’d be right. For all the people who complain of too many repeat or well-known authors, there are just as many who complain that there are too many unknown authors.
The thing with this is that everyone clearly has an exact idea of how many of each should be present each month and not everyone can be happy at once.
From July 2021 to June 2022, we saw nine repeat authors that are BOTM specific. This doesn’t include the other known authors or hyped-up books that were included.
The only way to decide if this is a dealbreaker for you is to look at their back catalog and determine if there were enough big names to keep you satisfied.
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do I only want to read big-name authors?
Complaint #12: You’re Charged Before You See the Options
This is less of a nuanced problem and more of just how the subscription works. I’m assuming they charge you before they show you the options to avoid people backing out on a monthly basis.
This, to me, is just a business decision that they needed to make to have the subscription model work properly.
It’s a little annoying if you plan to skip but the subscription is supposed to be set up to not charge you the following month for the credit so you can use your roll-over credit.
If you absolutely need to see all the options before you’re charged your subscription fee then I don’t think a book subscription is the right option for you. Nothing wrong with that. Instead, you can look at the different curations from BOTM and other similar book subscriptions and only buy those that interest you.
You can still be involved in Facebook groups and the like so the only thing you’ll miss out on is the BOTM editions and the bookmarks (if those are especially important to you).
Before purchasing, ask yourself: Do you need to see all the options before you get charged?
Is Book of the Month Right For You?
There are going to be problems with every subscription service out there. Not every product was made for every person, even if they try to cater to everyone.
When deciding if you want to start a new book subscription I recommend considering all the complaints other members have and deciding if those are dealbreakers or not.
I think the largest factor you should consider is if their curations meet your interests. If so then give them a try and see what you personally think. If not, move along to another subscription service (I promise you, the market is inundated with them).