The simplest way to describe Rare Birds would be that we’re an online book club and book subscription service. We send out a newly published fiction book at the start of each month, then come back together as a community for a guided discussion about what we just read.
Each month our members get the choice between two books – we send out a secret synopsis of the book but keep the title a secret. The idea here is to help readers get outside their comfort zones and pick things they wouldn’t have otherwise.
All our books are written by female authors – it’s a huge mission with us to highlight and celebrate works of fiction by women we think deserve more attention.
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I built what I wanted but couldn’t find.
Books aren’t going anywhere but I do think for millennials the way we find things to read is changing. We love the convenience of shopping online, but the volume of choice is overwhelming and reading reviews doesn’t always offer as much insight as you think it might.
The feedback I was getting from friends was that they’d make more time to read if they trusted they would like the book they sat down with. People still want physical books, but we want the process of finding them to be a little more special and I think, most importantly, fun.
So, the idea was – I read all the time and know what’s out there. I’ll pick the best of what’s being published right now and wrap it beautifully like a gift and guide you through the experience.
It’s about providing a digital experience that could complement the physical aspect of reading. I wanted to set up a service that said – look how wonderful reading is. Look how fun it is. Look at these amazing books. We’ll give them to you, and we’ll connect you with readers just like you who don’t take themselves too seriously.
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How has the company evolved during the pandemic?
The nature of our service meant it was already really well-equipped to deal with the realities of staying at home. Our subscribers are based all over the country and we already mailed books out to them and did our book club online, so we were in the very lucky position of not having to completely reimagine our business when everything shut down last March.
2020 was going to be the year we really focused on our events programming; we had live book clubs with the authors planned and were lined up to sponsor events at a few of the major book festivals in the UK.
All that went out the window. Instead, we used the unexpected time to work on our processes – all the really unglamorous stuff that’s easy to put off when you’re focused on more exciting things but that really makes a difference, especially when we’re all stuck at home and rely on deliveries arriving quickly and being able to navigate the site with ease.
What can we hope to see from the brand in the future?
It feels like we’re finally starting to look forward to the post-pandemic age, which is really exciting for us. We’re tentatively starting to plan live events and are looking at moving our office into a new space to accommodate this. We learned a lot during the pandemic and are coming back to our plans with fresh eyes, looking at how we can blend the format even further, offering in-person events but also a complementary digital experience for anyone who wants to participate but can’t be in the room.