Quarterly launches PageHabit to give book lovers a peek into the writing process

Quarterly started in 2011 as a highbrow subscription box service, with boxes (delivered every three months, as its name suggests) curated by celebrities like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Pharrell Williams, and Gretchen Rubin. Now the company wants to take its brand philosophy further with a new literary subscription service called PageHabit. Every month, PageHabit’s subscribers will get a new hardcover release with annotations by its author and other book-related items.

Quarterly, which has sent boxes to more than 100,000 subscribers, recently acquired book subscription club BooklyBox to build PageHabit, and will first offer the service in six genres: literary fiction, young adult, fantasy, romance, historical fiction, and mystery.

CEO James Hicks said Quarterly’s team realized over the past five years that celebrity-curated boxes are challenging to scale up because it is hard to continue adding new celebrities and managing relationships. After launching a literary-themed box about a year and a half ago, however, they saw that giving readers a behind-the-scenes peek into the writing process resonated with subscribers, so Quarterly decided to use that as a starting point for its next step.

To create an immersive experience, PageHabit asks authors to prepare a handwritten letter and about 20 to 30 annotations on Post-It notes, which it reproduces and sticks inside books for an immersive experience. Subscribers also get access to digital content, like streaming author interviews. A portion of the $29.99 monthly subscription fee will be donated to Books for Africa, which supports literacy programs and libraries in African countries.

Even though digital books were supposed to herald the demise of physical books, paper continues to hold a strong allure, with sales of physical books growing in the U.S. and the U.K. even as sales of e-readers and digital books fell dramatically last year. This is partly due to reader preference, but also because books have become a status symbol: a physical book or shelf packed with volumes is much more visually appealing than a Kindle.

PageHabit taps into the fact that book lovers often want to show off what they have read. Its editorial team works with a panel of influencers, or people who have popular YouTube and Instagram accounts about books, to go through publishers’ catalogs and pick promising new releases. It also listens to feedback from followers on its Facebook page to decide what genres to add next (Hicks says these may include horror and non-fiction like biographies, memoirs, and business books).

“A subscription service, if you do it right, is a really nice surprise every month. If someone can understand the kind of literature that fits, it’s an amazing thing for customers to discover what book to read next,” says Hicks. “In terms of why physical books, it’s a combination of a couple of things. It’s the cover art, the smell of the pages. It’s very Instagrammable. For avid readers, the ability to share books when you are finished or have it in your personal library to show how much you’ve read, is important.”