Bookazines are a high ROI, low overhead bestseller

Featured Image

Bookazines are a high ROI, low overhead bestseller for magazine publishers. When you browse the publications section of your local bookstore, you'll notice immediately what's front and center—bookazines.

Bookazines are one-off special interest publications, or SIPs, usually put out by a subscription-based magazine publisher. The softcover, perfect-bound books are typically printed in full color with a glossy coated cover, a lighter weight supercalendered or groundwood body, and tend to run up to 100 pages.

Content is a deep dive into specific and targeted subject matter. But the topics can run the gamut from ocean life to an era such as the 1960s, a golden couple like Harry and Meghan to infamous criminals. Many of them also cover lifestyle topics like fashion, music, food, home decor, pets and gardening or hobbies like woodworking and specific auto brands.

Bookazines were produced for decades but exploded in 2021 with the pandemic-induced digital malaise. Bookazines are a way for people to escape into their favorite subjects (much like the internet) without scrolling and searching for hours. Big-name publishers simultaneously reduced subscription-based magazines while putting out dozens of new bookazines.

Subscription-based magazines are sometimes converted into bookazines or used to resurrect previously canceled titles or online magazines. In other cases, new concepts for subscription-based magazines are tested by publishing a bookazine or two. In fact, Meredith, which produces People and Food & Wine, among dozens of other titles, reported that in just one quarter in 2021, its newsstand revenues grew by $3 million over the same quarter in 2020, citing success with bookazines. The company also published bookazines for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Rolling Stone.

In the U.S., SIP sales generated $500M RSV (retail sales value) in 2021, accounting for around 40% of the total category value, and becoming the dominant sector of the magazine newsstand. The trend seems to be continuing into 2023.

Check out this deep dive on better ways to bring bookazines to market.

Mr. Magazine, a website focused on magazine trends, reported in January, "A crowded marketplace combined with the three headwinds (paper shortage, printing cost, and postage rates) publishers had to deal with in 2022, kept the major remaining publishers from entering the new magazine field…and those publishers focused more on the book-a-zine market." 

The beauty of bookazines is that they appeal to both publishers and consumers for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few:

The cost per issue is low, but the cover price is right.

Because bookazines often rely on stories reprinted from the publisher's archives using previously licensed images, the content cost is well below a typical magazine issue. Bookazines can also be printed in runs, much like traditional books, based on demand. So there is not likely to be a lot of waste from issue to issue. And typically, bookazines sport a cover price between $9.99 and $14.99, a sweet spot for consumers to snap up a deep dive on their favorite topic while avoiding hardcover book prices.

Quick to produce, and easy to savor.

Bookazines can be produced relatively quickly—even on the fly. Telling the life story of a beloved public figure comes together fast when the publisher has access to its own original reporting, trusted subject matter experts, and high-quality images and illustrations. Weighing in at up to 100 pages, bookazines appeal to consumers because they can savor and digest them over a long period of time. Readers and collectors especially appreciate an attractive layout, never-seen-before images, fun facts and easily digestible stats.

Purchased on purpose, not on impulse.

Because bookazines can be both relevant (say, in the case of a recent celebrity death or fashion trend) and evergreen (hobbies, recipes, geography), most are purchased intentionally to read and share over a longer period of time. Some may sit on the coffee table for months before going into the bookshelf or collector files. Many become beloved reference books such as travel, pet, and gardening guides. The magazine brand itself and any advertisers experience increased views by a target audience.

"Whether 2023 will see an improvement in the number of new title launches or not is yet to be seen," wrote Samir Husni, president and CEO of Magazine Consulting & Research, also known as Mr. Magazine. "What is for sure is that the so-called book-a-zines or special interest publications have taken over the nation's newsstands, vying for space with both the established regularly published magazines and the arriving newbies."

< Back to blog