Interesting news from Soft Skull Press -- they're starting a subscription program. They're starting with a poetry subscription for $50, which is a good savings off the cover price of the books. To follow are subscriptions for Fiction, Pop Culture, Graphic Novels, and Queer Studies (what I want to know is: when can I subscribe to Graphic Queer Pop Fiction?). It's sort of like Book-of-the-Month Club, except it's not, because you know what you're getting for the whole year and it's all from one very good independent publisher. (Soft Skull published, among many other things, Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, among my favorites of last year.)
A publisher offering a subscription to its books, or a certain line of its books, is not an entirely new idea -- the history of publishing has various forms of subscriptions for books, and there are contemporary examples such as AK Press's Friends program -- though I do imagine it could add considerable administrative hassles (Richard Nash of Soft Skull wonders, "Will keeping track of these subscriptions be a nightmare, as if we were trying to run a magazine on top of a publisher? By extension, will our interns hate me?").
There are lots of small press publishers that might be able to benefit from subscription programs (if they could work out the details), and I'll be curious to see if anybody becomes inspired by Soft Skull's example -- there are actually quite a few publishers that would be worth subscribing to, and such a program would be a good way for authors who might otherwise have trouble getting noticed to find an audience.