We tried Amazon’s book subscription for kids—here's how it works
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Since he was just a few months old, my son has been obsessed with books. Now, at 15 months, he mutters to himself in his own language while flipping pages and pointing out pictures of words he knows, like “ball” and “doggy.” It’s completely adorable.
When he was around a year old, we heard friends mention the Amazon Prime Book Box, a somewhat new subscription service that delivers curated book boxes for kids ages 0 to 12. For babies and toddlers in the 0-to-2 age range, the subscription includes four board books each month, curated by a team of Amazon specialists. Parents have the opportunity to choose from six or so options to customize the box before it arrives.
My son has many favorite books, but I’m always keen to get more in front of him. Why not try it out?
How does the Amazon Prime Book Box work?
Amazon Prime Book Boxes are designed for kids of all ages. You can choose from a few different age categories: ages 0 to 2; 3 to 5; 6 to 8; and 9 to 12. For $19.99 per month, toddlers get four board books, whereas kids in the older age ranges receive two hardcover books.
When you sign up, you share information about who’s reading, and how often they’d like to receive the books (each month, every two months, or every three months). Then you’ll have five days to customize your box by choosing from fairly limited options curated by the Amazon team. If you don’t remember to customize the box, you’ll just get between two and four random picks from the list.
Amazon says that they pick the books based on a combination of customer reviews and the opinions of their editors. They try to combine new releases, classics, and hidden gems in each box.
If you live in the U.S., the Book Box ships for free to Prime members, and you don’t need to return the books after you’ve spent the month reading them. They charge you a monthly $19.99 fee automatically, each time the box ships, and you have to pause or cancel the subscription on the Amazon website to stop that process. (You can also pause the membership or change the frequency at any time.) If you’re not satisfied, you can return the books like you’d return any other Amazon purchase, from the Your Orders page.
What we thought of the Amazon Prime Book Box
We tried the age 0 to 2 Book Box for three months. During the first month we received literary gems like A Birthday for Cow, Families Belong, Where do Speedboats Sleep at Night?, and Little Owl’s Snow. The second box contained Babies Around the World Dancing, Baby Loves, The Princess and the Pea, and Who Was Martin Luther King Junior?. During the third month, we didn’t get our box at all because of a delivery mix-up.
What we like
There are a few up-sides to this subscription: We liked that for the most part, the Book Boxes provided us with books that we haven’t heard about, covering a mix of genres (history, classics, education and fantasy). We were also thankful for the diverse cast of characters represented on the pages of the books we received.
This is a very convenient way to mix up your child’s book rotation; the process is easy enough that it feels nearly automatic, and you don’t have to think about building up a library. It’s also great that Amazon offers board books for kids in the youngest age group; the books are durable and held up well over time.
What we don't like
We do, however, think that there were more downsides than upsides. The monthly cadence might be too frequent for small children, as the books pile up quickly.
We also felt like some of the book choices weren’t very creative. If you plan to receive four books, you’ll choose from approximately six options to customize the book list. I was surprised by how limited that set up was; if we owned two of the books already, we had no option but to choose the other four. This lack of variety makes the $19.99 price point feel a bit steep and we wished we could choose from 10 or 15 options instead, based on our son’s favorite subjects.
It’s also worth noting that some of the age groups feel vast; a 9-year-old may have very different reading interests than a 12-year-old, but they’re grouped together for the subscription. Plus, the Book Box only includes hardcover books for older kids, not paperbacks, which struck me as a bit odd.
Should you sign up for Amazon Prime Book Box?
The Amazon Prime Book Box is a bit expensive for what you get, given the lack of variance. Part of the fun of reading is getting to pick out books that are a good fit for you, and this subscription does not allow for those choices—nor does it feel like a kind librarian recommending her favorite books (which is what we’d hoped for).
That said, the Amazon Prime Book Box would make a great gift for friends or family who’ve just had a little one and want to start a book collection. Choose the bi-monthly option and you’ll end up sending them 20 books over the course of a year for around $120 total—a generous and practical baby gift.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.