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25th August
written by Steph
Yesterday, I finally decided to treat myself to something nice, and signed up for an on-going subscription to Powell's Indiespensible club. The Indiespensible program is one I've been familiar with for a while, but hadn't joined, due to its rather sizable subscription fee of $39.95 per mailing. That's a lot for one book, even if it is a signed hardcover that comes with its own commemorative box. However, a few things tipped me over the edge: 1) Did you know that along with your book (and box) every six weeks, you also get sent other surprise gifts? I love a surprise (well, most of the time), and I love getting more than just a book for $40! Previous gifts have included baked goods (really!), paperback novels by other authors they feel complement the current mailer, totebags, notebooks, shot glasses, and so much more... I love it!

There's a bird on the box!

2) The real impetus: the next installment (#21) is Jonathan Franzen's Freedom. By now you're probably sick of hearing about a book that hasn't even been released (I know Jennifer Weiner is...), but I'm super excited for it, and the prospect of a signed first-edition was more than I could pass up. I was doing some internet browsing to see if I wanted to pre-order the book from an online retailer, but it seems only Amazon is currently offering it at $15. Now, $15 is a price I'd be more than happy to pay for a hardcover (whereas in-store prices of $30, are a bit much), however I really didn't want to order through Amazon if I didn't have to. On a whim, I checked out Powell's, and saw that Freedom was their next Indiespensible pick, and while $39.95 is far more than I thought I might pay, I realized that I would actually appreciate all the bells and whistles for this particular book. It's something I know I'll treasure, and I'm also looking forward to receiving the first part of Paul Murray's Skippy Dies (amongst other heretofore unrevealed surprises).  I definitely feel this is an instance where by spending more, I'm getting way more bang for my buck. So tell me, are there any other Indiespensible members out there? If so, what's been your favorite installment thus far? If not, are you at all tempted to join? What's held you back?


  1. What a fabulous sounding initiative by Powell’s! I am not at all surprised that you succumbed to the temptation; a beautiful, limited edition of a book every six weeks? If I was in the US I’d sign up!

    Speaking of Franzen, based on your positive recommendations of The Corrections that I have read here and there, I bought a copy. I adore family sagas and big meaty novels and look forward to reading it (I consider it one of those “modern classics” of the last few years that I need to catch up on).

  2. 08/25/2010

    I have read a lot about the club, but haven’t joined yet. I think it’s probably because of the hefty price tag per mailing. I don’t have trouble spending money on books, but I am not sure if my budget could afford this right now. I do like that the books come signed, and in hardcover, as well as the freebie prizes, so I am thinking that when I can afford it I am going to go for it. I’d love it if you would post what comes in some of your orders every once in awhile!

  3. 08/25/2010

    Well, you know how I feel about Indiespensable! glad you’ve joined the club. Silly me, I thought it would be easy to break away after three months, but they make such terrific selections that I’m hooked. It’s definitely not cheap, but since I don’t spend much money on books otherwise, it’s justifiable.

  4. Kathleen

    Oh my gosh, I have never heard of the Indispensable club before. I’m going to check it out. My sweetie travels to Portland at least once per month and always brings me gift cards to Powell’s. I’m going to get online and use one of my gift cards to join the program. Thanks for the wonderful tip.

  5. I still haven’t read any Franzen, so I’m afraid I’m not very excited about the release of Freedom. I own a copy of The Corrections, but it hasn’t reached the top of my TBR pile yet. Perhaps all this Freedom raving will persuade me to give it a try!

    I love those special editions. I hope they are all as good 🙂

  6. 08/25/2010

    I would love to join, and keep considering it, but the price tag has always seemed too hefty. …although, when you think about how much one dinner out at a restaurant is, for example, it’s not expensive at all. It’s just psychological, I guess!

  7. 08/25/2010

    Ooh, what a cool club. I would love to join if I could afford to. I am a straight library book girl for the next year at least (unless I receive a book as a gift or win it).

    I am pretty sick of hearing about Freedom, but I’m just not a big Franzen fan. He just really rubs me the wrong way as I find him to be most pretentious (and it comes through in his writing). That said, I do want to read Freedom, and that boxed copy looks awesome.

  8. 08/25/2010

    @ Claire: I hope you enjoy The Corrections! It’s a book I really need to re-read, and I definitely consider it a contemporary classic.
    Also, it would be slightly more expensive, but I do think the Indiespensible program has options for extra-U.S.A. shipping (for another $12), I suppose. Perhaps a tad steep for each issue, but maybe worthwhile if there’s ever a volume you particularly covet!
    @ zibilee: I think the price-tag would sway me too (and has in the past), as I’m sure I don’t spend $40 on books every 1.5 months. BUT, I just couldn’t resist this time, and I do think it is a worthwhile investment. I’ll be sure to post when I receive my first installment!
    @ Trisha: I’m glad to be part of any club you’re in! Maybe this will be the antidote to my McKay’s addiction?
    @ Kathleen: I can’t imagine a better thing to put gift certificates towards! I hope you enjoy!
    @ Jackie: I hope you read The Corrections soon. I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on it. I know you don’t read tons of American fiction, but I think this is one book that is well worth your time.
    @ rhapsody: That’s true! Tony and I give ourselves a “mad money” budget of $50 a week (which we routinely ignore), but with that in mind, this means simply not going out to eat for a single week. Not all that bad from that perspective!
    @ jenn: I think I try to stick to Franzen as an author and not really any of the media surrounding him. I was a big fan of The Corrections, but even I admit the hype surrounding Freedom has been kind of insane. I’ve heard rumors this one is even better than his last, which excites me to no end… I guess we’ll see soon enough!

  9. 08/25/2010

    I’m so out of the loop.. haven’t heard of Freedom before, this is the first! I had better start reading The Corrections (I do mean to very soon) before I get bombarded with Freedom reviews!

    Steph, you deserve the Indiespensible treat. You get enormous savings at McKay’s so why not indulge yourself every few weeks, right? Like zibilee, I’d love to see what you get every so often. It would be like reading your McKay’s posts, super fun!

  10. Lu

    I wish it wasn’t so expensive, or I would totally be in! I think it’s a fair price for all the super cool things you get.

  11. I looked into this right after I started working because I was thinking about fun things I could get for myself. I ended up not going with it just because I like more control over my book. But it looks really cool – I hope you’ll post pictures of the books and other surprises you get in each package.

  12. 08/26/2010

    I’ve never heard of this program but am all ears to hear what you’ll find in your installment! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading Jonathan Franzen’s new novel as well as Paul Murray’s Skippy Dies, which is longlisted for Booker Prize.

  13. 08/27/2010

    @ Claire: I feel so guilty about not doing a McKay’s post in ages, but I promise to photograph my Indiespensible goodies when they show up! And you really must read The Corrections! Soon!
    @ Lu: I think the cost is fairly prohibitive for most people, but as you said, so many cool things! I’m glad I can splurge!
    @ Kim: I think I would be a bit more leery about the book choice if they didn’t have the back mailings posted, but seeing what they’ve sent out in the past, they’re all books I would consider reading… I guess we’ll see, won’t we? 😉
    @ Matt: I’m so excited for mystery gifts! And of course for the Franzen and the Murray as well!

  14. 08/27/2010

    We don’t have that service over here in the UK, but it sounds a real collectible and pretty irresistible. I am sure you will be pleased with it for years to come. And what a book to receive – a must have indeed

  15. 08/27/2010

    Have been out of touch getting the school year underway, and then I finally get back here and you have gone all book tempter on me. 🙂 Gorgeous. Already signed up. Did it before I left this comment. Sad my lack of impulse control when it comes to books. Thanks so much Steph! Might include in my Sunday Salon post and link back to you.

  16. 08/29/2010

    @ Tom: I think it was the Franzen that pushed me over the edge. There have been other books featured in the past that I would have liked to own, but none of them were enough to motivate me to sign up for the club. This one was just too good to be true!
    @ Frances: I didn’t mean to be book temptress, but I love the term and think I will wear my mantle with pride! 😉 I wish I could say I feel bad for sucking you in, but I’m just glad there’s someone else out there to share the love with! 😀

  17. 08/29/2010

    This does look gorgeous! As you know, I’m trying to keep my book inflow to a minimum these days, but this is tempting.

    And, even more tempting, I just learned that my local indie (Politics and Prose) has just started a signed first edition club that’s similar to this. A book a month, signed, for the cover price ($35 or less, including shipping). And they’re starting with Freedom, with Nicole Krauss, Ian Frazier, and Salman Rushdie, to follow.

  18. 08/29/2010

    @ Teresa: Oh, I don’t see how you could not sign up for that if not for Indiespensible. I mean, all of those authors are great and you’d be supporting a business local to you! I hope you take the plunge!

  19. why have i not heard of this?!?!?!? i know that our favorite indie shop in VT (northshire) has a monthly book club you can join, but i’ve never heard of this program. now i’m going to spend even MORE money on books. damn you, woman!

  20. 09/02/2010

    Well I hate to sound an off note but I read the Franzen last week and didn’t much like it. It starts very well, but I got bored before I was halfway through, and the good parts (and there are some) didn’t overall justify the 560-page length.

    But that need not be offputting to you, Steph, since my love for Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question suggests that we may not be kindred spirits, reading-tastes-wise! (Plus, if you loved The Corrections, you’re more likely to like Freedom.)

  21. 09/02/2010

    @ John: Oh, I wouldn’t write us off just yet, John! I find that it’s the rare person whose tastes completely align with my own, and you’ve certainly featured some books on your site that I’m excited for or have also loved!
    As it is, I did love The Corrections, so hopefully that positions me to really love Freedom. Franzen can be a maximalist, which is not something I generally enjoy in my fiction, but he manages to get away with it… there’s always an exception, right? 😉
    I hope you post your thoughts on Freedom in a post on your blog! I’m really looking forward to seeing how bloggers respond to the novel!

  22. 09/03/2010

    A friend recently gave me a button that reads “I am not to be trusted in a bookstore with a credit card.” Looks like that will now have to be expanded to include special on-line book shopping sites….

  23. 09/04/2010

    @ Nathalie: I am pretty much not to be trusted in a bookstore if I have anything on me that can be traded for books in any way, shape or form… I am slightly better with impulse control on the internet what with all that pesky typing in of numbers at the like, but only just slightly…

  24. 09/05/2010

    I wish they’d have an initiative like Powell’s Indiespensable Club in the UK because I’d definitely join in! Especially if you get surprises! I read The Corrections after all the fracas with Oprah, and thought it was spot on regarding his description of the modern malaise: stress, dissatisfaction, superficiality. I was surprised at how highly readable it was. I wonder how his new book will compare.

  25. 09/06/2010

    @ sakura: You could in theory have the shipments mailed to the UK, but that adds a hefty $15 to the price tag, so you might not want to have an ongoing membership in that case but just wait for titles that really appeal.
    Also, I was also drawn to The Corrections following the Oprah scandal and was surprised she picked the book in the first place! It just really doesn’t seem like her kind of fiction, but man did I love it. The characters are just so well-drawn!

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