Literati, a new subscription service for children’s books based in Austin, Tex., which debuted last November, has just begun fulfilling orders. The online service, unveiled at the Texas Book Festival, charges a recurring $9.95 membership fee for five curated titles a month.
Jessica Ewing, Literati's CEO, said the company promises parents "developmentally age-appropriate books" for children from newborns to age eight. Customers, who receive five titles per delivery, can keep the books for a week and then either purchase them or return them. Discounts are offered on an escalating scale: 10% off the purchase of one book, 15% off two books, 20% off three books, 25% off four books and 30% off five books. “We are operating like Trunk Club and similar try-before-you-buy services,” said Ewing, a former Google executive who moved to Austin to become a writer.
Each monthly shipment is organized around a theme—January was, for example, “science and innovation"—and each box includes a unique piece of children’s illustration done specifically for the club.
According to Ewing, the company carries a mix of backlist and new titles with special attention paid to books that are "lesser known classics... books that we think may be overlooked, but are really diamonds in the rough.” Recent examples include When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden (Chronicle), Illuminature by Rachel Williams, illustrated by Carnovsky (Wide Eyed Editions), and Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford (HMH).
The company also has an eye on giving back. The company is testing whether it can set up a system through which the children who use its service can donate their unwanted books. Ewing is also looking into the possibility of getting books to foster children who don't have a personal library. "There are a lot of ways that we can impact the world through what we do,” Ewing said.
For now, though, Ewing admitted that the priority is making her business work. “Part of the appeal of our subscription model is that it takes the frustration out of shopping for books," she said, as well as "the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not a book will be age-appropriate." She added that she thinks the service will especially appeal to parents who "don't want their children catered to by an algorithm on Amazon."