The Bookish Swag Dilemma

Posted August 21, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 4 Comments


I love my fandom merch as much as the next girl.  Finding art and mugs and bookmarks and tote bags designed around my favorite stories is always exhilerating.  Especially when things are created around less popular fandoms, or when they’re particularly original.

Still, across several years of subscribing on and off to multiple book boxes, I discovered something.

There is such thing as too much merch for me.

I know, what a shock?

Maybe it was Marie Kondo or maybe just good common sense, but I finally had to step back and acknowledge that I was getting a lot of “stuff”, and a lot of it was stuff that I didn’t care about, or that didn’t spark joy.  Either the items were useless to me, or the fandoms were not ones I loved enough to seek.  I was ending up with a lot of bookish swag I didn’t love.

Featured: Hobbitses Candle from Flick the Wick, TBR Jar from Illumicrate, Monster Book of Monsters Post-It Holder from MLC Co., Mermaid book sleeve from BookBeau (OwlCrate), “Villains” mug from Alchemy + Ink.

Part of this, of course, is on me.  I’ve dipped into the waters of six or seven different book boxes and some of them had been running simultaneously, so of course I was getting a lot of “stuff”.  Additionally, some of the biggest fandoms out there were ones that I wasn’t altogether in love with… or if I liked them, I didn’t merch-level like them.

Still, I had to make a choice.  When was enough, enough?

For me, enough came back in about October 2019.  My husband and I were buying our first house, and  I was changing all the addresses and a couple of my longer subscriptions were coming to an end.  I was packing up all my stuff, and throwing away a lot of other stuff with tremendous amounts of guilt because even though this merch was fine… it just… wasn’t for me.

Featured:  Illuminae book tin from OwlCrate, Mythical Creatures Journal from Ink & Wonder, Magic Spells planter from Illumicrate, buttons from BookCon 2019.

I found that even a lot of the stuff I was keeping was stuff I wouldn’t necessarily buy for myself.  While some items had become useful in their own way, they were certainly things I could find other solutions for.  It was time to cut the cord.

The items that had been sitting in tote bags (I have so many tote bags thanks to book boxes) waiting for me to find a loving use were retired.  Items that weren’t paper craft were donated to a local thrift store.  The few I could use or thought I would use were relegated to their new tasks. Containers used to hold essential oils and buttons, journals kept as they are eternally useful.  Some art prints made it into frames and hang in my dining room/library or in my office.

Most things, though, I bid a regretful adieu.  And it felt like so much waste.

I can’t even begin to start listing all the creators here.  Some favorites are Karen Hallion (the Agent Carter pin, I’ve also got a couple of framed art pieces from her), Katy Lipscomb (the rainbow phoenix, also an extremely talented artist), TweeStitch (the “Eat Slugs” pin, but I have a bunch more of hers), and Naomi Lord (the stickers).

Now, I talk about bookish swag as though it was an end all waste of time and resources, and that’s not true.  Honestly, there’s a lot of bookish merch that is gorgeous and will appeal to different people.  For example, I adore bookish enamel pins.  I have a whole board of them – what you see above is only a section of that.  I’ve also got displays of official and fantasy Disney pins.

So not all swag is waste for me.

I admit that the tote bags are things I may not have bought myself, but now deeply appreciate and know I would in the future, should I need more (I don’t).  And as I mentioned, some of the art pieces have been framed around my home.  Still, we’re only looking at about a 30% retention rate on all the bookish swag and I’ve made the decision, for now, to mostly stop buying book boxes.  Yes, I know, some companies do “book only” boxes. And I do still keep my eyes open for something particularly interesting (I recently resubscribed to Scribbler to pick up their Conflict box, which I’ll review soon).

So is that it?  No more merch for me?


Featured:  Rose gold foil bookmark from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe, tattoo print book sleeve from BookBeau, Wolfsbane candle from Get Fictional, and Wild Magic print by Rose Frith.

The difference now is that I seek out the items I want, that appeal to me specifically.  Things that are unique and interesting, and support those artists directly.  I also purchase a lot less (though there was a little spike in the early coronavirus days to support some of my favorites).  My bookish swag hauls are a lot more thoughtful than they used to be, when I was just dumping junk and treasures from book boxes and hoping for something useful, of decent quality, and from a fandom I like.

And even that wasn’t a waste!

Book boxes like OwlCrate and Illumicrate introduced me to creators I may not have found on my own.  When I’m looking for candles, one of my go-tos is Flick the Wick, which I found via a book box.  And TJ Lubrano is one of my favorite bookish artists.  Without the book boxes, I wouldn’t know about either of them!  Plus I really do have merch I love and use regularly from these boxes, so the value of bookish swag is in the eye of the beholder.


Do you feel like you have too much swag?  Do you keep everything you get in book boxes?  If not – do you trash it, give it away, or sell it?  Let me know how you deal with the bookish swag dilemma in the comments!

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4 responses to “The Bookish Swag Dilemma

  1. This is something that actually puts me off buying book boxes because yes, it is nice to have some merch related to what you love but I don’t usually express my love for a book/world/author through buying merch. As soon as it becomes useless to you it is junk and it would feel so wasteful to receive more stuff every month that just took up space in my home.

    • Amber

      It’s become a turn-off for me too, to be honest. Although now I have all this HP merch I’m trying to replace so I’m thinking about those little art prints…. …. Lol, I’ll most likely just look for ones by artists I like already XD. It does get to feeling really wasteful, especially because of the subscription model (which I get from a business perspective, but still).

  2. Stacie

    I didn’t get book boxes for the longest time due to getting a new physical book every month. And then Owlcrate teased me with Hocus Pocus and Edgar Allan Poe and I ended up grabbing the Glorious Haunting box. And then they had the Addie LaRue box and I’ve fallen head over heels for VE Schwab, so I grabbed that one as well! (The past few months has seen me scrounging Mercari for items from various boxes related to her books. I think I would’ve just about killed someone to have gotten that illumicrate box!)

    I definitely understand Too Much Stuff, though. I think we all get there–multiple times–in our lives. 🙂 But go you for finding a subscription you DO like enough to get fairly often and continuing to treat yourself! Like you said, Scribbler is helpful and fun!

    • Amber

      Being perfectly honest, I snagged the Addie LaRue box, too! Looking forward to it – I’ve only gotten one other OwlCrate Special Edition box (also Schwab – Vengeful) and it was fun. Still the same sort of collection of stuff-I-don’t-need, I suppose, but I loved that I didn’t get any surprise items from fandoms I didn’t know, haha. I hope we both love it!