Amazon launches Prime Book Box, a $23 kids’ book selection, in its first physical Prime book service

Along with the higher price that Amazon is introducing to Prime this month, the company is also bringing another first to its membership service: physical books. The company now has a new product called Prime Book Box, a subscription service for children’s hardback books, selected by Amazon editors, sold as part of its Prime tier. You can register now for an invite for when it starts to ship later this year, starting in the U.S.

Pricing is $22.99 per box, which Amazon says works out to 35 percent below the cumulative list price for the books, and you can subscribe for books to come in one-, two- or three-month intervals. Books are divided up by age groups of baby-two years, three-five years, six-eight years and nine-12 years, with sample titles including If Animals Kissed Good Night, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, The Willoughbys, and Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.

All books are hardcover, and you can opt either for four board books for kids aged two and younger, or two picture books or novels for older children. 

“These books include classics that have stood the test of time as well as hidden gems that our Editors couldn’t put down—stories that your reader can enjoy again and again. We will also use your recent purchase history to avoid including a book you have already purchased on,” Amazon notes in its FAQ about the service.

Prime already has a reading service called Prime Reading, but it is focused around Kindle e-books, along with selected digital magazines and travel guides.

The idea of bringing out a physical book service specifically for children is notable. Parents are more likely to buy (and get gifted) physical picture books and young adult novels rather than e-books as presents, and so kids often build up libraries of these. It also could be a helpful fillip to those of us out there who are trying to figure out engaging ways of reducing screen time for offspring.

“We want to help Prime members discover great children’s books that will inspire a love of reading,” a spokesperson told TechCrunch. 

It’s also a clever way of introducing younger people to using Amazon, and also for Amazon to start developing reading profiles for others in your household besides you the Amazon account holder.

This is not an insignificant data play in that regard: today, Amazon can only make approximations about which books and products are for whom in a household, and even then can only vaguely guess as to who else lives at your address and orders using your account. This is a way for the company to start building more specific profiles, and doubtless the company already has extensive algorithms to suggest what other kinds of products a reader of, say, Madeline L’Engle, might also like to be recommended.

For now, though, the more immediate impression I have here also is that Amazon is not quite giving up on physical books just yet.

Some details that you might not see on the landing page but are notable for how this will work: customers will be able to review each box before it ships and tailor it by swapping books from a curated list, which is one way of avoiding duplicates of books you might already have.

Although books are a very common gift for children, currently you won’t be able to gift Prime Book Box subscriptions, “but we’re always innovating on behalf of customers,” the spokesperson said, so this could be something the company plans to explore down the line.