Emma Stevenson and Rachael Yaeger, Co-Founders of [reads] delivery
Emma and Rachael are co-founders of [reads] delivery where books are selected by actual humans versus algorithms - for adults and children! Isn’t that nice? A personal approach, and we are all about that. We are so honored and excited to share how these two met, the power of friendship and love for books, and making books available to the masses.
Emma and Rachael, can you share how did you two develop the concept behind [reads] delivery?
[reads] started as two people who read really differently with a desire to help a wider audience read outside their personal comfort zone! When we first met we were both reading the same book Gloria Steinem My Life on the Road which was unusual for us, because Emma usually reads non fiction, essays, and poetry whereas Rachael reads a large amount of fiction!
We started exchanging and recommending books with each other and realized that without that personal recommendation it’s really hard to find something you will enjoy, grow and learn from outside what you know you already like.
We thought, how can we share this with others? There is something really special about bringing a more authentic perspective to recommendations! We started thinking how we could scale the feeling of trying something that you would never pick up on your own, would people be interested and enjoy it? We’ve built that into our brand and community and it’s an essential part of what [reads] is. Not only is it a product but also a community and we’re open sourcing the libraries and personal curation of others.
Reading has typically been a private experience but we’re hoping to change that in a way that starts more conversations. Book clubs and book signings and the publishing system is broken, we’ve witnessed it first hand and are trying to give people a shared reading experience that is inspiring and creating a lifelong learner.
We know that curators select the monthly’s featured book, but is there a requirement to be the actual curator or is this at random?
There is no requirement or pre requisites for our curators! We generally seek out people that we admire and people in diverse fields so that our subscribers are getting a diverse and unique selection! We’re always open to new suggestions and we typically like to find under the radar people so that we can also give them a platform! :)
Have you had a curator select a controversial book that did not align with your personal ethos and/or audience and still push for it anyway to generate a conversation?
Working with our curators has been interesting for us because we have to make sure that we are giving our subscribers books outside “Emma and Rachael’s” personal curation. Working with our curators is a way that we ourselves can evolve and make sure we are reading outside our own comfort zone! In saying that there has only been one month where we felt like we should have spent more time making sure the books fit within the [reads] brand! Typically we’re focussed on length of our books, we don’t want to overwhelm or add stress to our readers by giving them something that is not attainable to finish within a month! We are a small team and as a small team we are responsible for many aspects of the business, one thing we are trying to get better at making sure we always dedicate time to really making each box the absolute best that it can be. Our philosophy and gut check for [reads] is, if we aren't stoked on it then don’t send it out. That philosophy trickles through every aspect of our brand, from small things like our newsletters to larger events, collaborations and partnerships!
Luckily we don’t have a readership issue here in New York, but how do you hope that [reads] delivery will make an impact in other cities where books and readership is not part of the everyday culture?
I think because [reads] started in New York it’s naturally developed a community here, but our larger vision is that [reads] grows and expands globally and creates community hubs across many cities, especially where reading and books aren't as accessible!
While we live online— our offline community is just as important to us, which is why we hold literary retreats overseas, studio visits with our curators and salons and literary dinner series here in NYC! We just enabled shipping to Japan, Uk, Germany and Canada and are hoping that they will be the first 4 of many communities that we start to expand [reads] to with our offline events! We’re people people and love meeting with new people that without the internet, we would never have connected with. We are a tech savvy brand that wants to utilize the strength and power of the internet without letting it replace those tangible and genuine in person interactions.
Based on your observations, where do children learn to pick up books versus a technology device?
Since starting [reads] we’ve realized that we’re wanting to grow and support our readers throughout their different life stages! We believe that reading physical books is a key educational milestone for children which is why we have a kids box! I think from what we’ve observed children are really curious, they want to know what this world is, who they are and how to find their place in it? Unfortunately technology is so easily accessible right now which is not a bad thing, it just changes the way we learn, how our brains operate and can be very distracting! Our goal with our kids reads is to create curious kids who are conversationalists. We feel books are such a tactile way of giving kids the chance to see themselves in different characters and start to express and explore who they are. Our target demographic for our kids boxes are parents, we want to facilitate and inspire parents with interactive physical books that kids can touch, feel, see the world through.
More of a light-hearted question for two book lovers - what are you two reading?
Emma is reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, The Abortion by Richard Brautigan and How to Change your Mind by Michael Pollan. Rachael is reading Motherhood by Sheila Heti.
What other plans do you have [reads]?
Right now we are working on a recycled [reads] program where we partner up with used bookstores to give people a [reads] package with curated used books! We love the environment and not being wasteful and believe that there are always 2 stories to books— the story inside the book and the story behind those who have read it! We just finished a trip to Hobart Book Village upstate and enjoyed meeting all the owners of the bookstores and selecting used books for ourselves!
Interviewed by Chary + Emily