Interview: Rachael & Emma from reads.delivery

Emma Stevenson & Rachael Yaeger | ©Maidje Meergans

The two New Yorkers, Emma Stevenson and Rachael Yaeger introduce us to their exciting book club project

How would you describe reads.delivery in your own words?

EMMA: [reads] is a platform built on discovery, it’s our goal to help people read differently, away from their personal taste and algorithm recommendations. It is an ecosystem that revolves around the idea that learning should be universal and lifelong.  

While [reads] curates the packages we also partner with curators in different fields to pick the books— each [reads] package is a surprise to look forward to each month! Each package comes with 2 unique books that we hope people might not have picked up on their own but will be pleasantly surprised by. We include library cards with each subscribers name in the front of each book in hopes to promote sharing reads with others and passing on the love.

RACHAEL: Humans are forever learners; [reads] is about new perspectives and trying new things.

Tell us a little bit more about you.

EMMA: I’ve spent the past decade teaching elementary school, homeschooling— working in special education, government residential care and non-profit education programs. I moved from Australia because I needed a change in my career, I wanted to feel inspired and that I was doing important work. I started at charity: water in 2011, a non profit dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to every person on the planet. I got my bachelors degree in Teaching and have taken a summer writing course in Paris where I started working on writing my own children’s book and have been writing ever since. I transitioned over to [reads] full time last summer.

RACHAEL: I did my graduate work in marketing and I have been working in the digital field for the last 9-10 years working with creatives and technologists to help brands online. I am an entrepreneur and I love working with people and building things. I started a small art gallery and printed zines, I then started freelancing in digital with my friends, and now we have a creative studio in Chinatown NY where I still work on digital projects including [reads]. The world of design and development, working with various clients and collaborators allows me to bring all of that experience and expertise to [reads].

How did you come up with idea of reads.delivery?

EMMA: Rachael and I met in 2016 and immediately bonded over books. [reads] originally started off as an idea to open our own bookstore in the city. We were so inspired after seeing Donald Judd’s library in Marfa that we wanted to create our own version of that. We knew that we could build a community but we realized that opening a bookstore was too expensive and not practical. We spent a year building a community offline with events that helped us find new people to talk about books with and decided to build [reads] as a platform centered around discovery in 2017. We launched in January 2018 with our subscription service and are excited to grow and expand into other areas.

RACHAEL: We had found this location on Orchard street in lower Manhattan which had a bookstore in the front, six desks in the back, and an event space in the middle, our ideal set-up. Once we realized the space was $14,000+ per month Emma and I started thinking how we could execute on our love of books and bringing people together online. We are both visual people so we decided on the closed captioning branding for [reads] and the system font Helvetica and then launched on Instagram. We started hosting events and slowing finding our “biggest fans” as one of our mentors would call our inner circle. My favorite early event was a book swap party where we debuted our Kickstarter video that the talented Wash & Fold helped us with, and everyone brought books, filled out library cards and took new books home. We knew we didn’t want to create a conventional book club and we want [reads] to feel like a trusted friend is gifting you books to discover every month. We talk about how, if you go to a bookstore or order a book via Amazon you’ll usually find something that’s very you, and if you order from [reads] you’re getting a completely new experience.

What’s your experience with your Kickstarter campaign? (Editor’s note: 208 supporters donated a total of $ 31,133)

EMMA: Kickstarter was a really fun way for us to build a community and get the word out there about [reads]. We worked with our friends Jarod and Marki to make a video that showed people this idea of “a different way to read.” It was a huge learning curve for us and helped us really focus on the messaging and the way we were communicating [reads] to others.

RACHAEL: Kickstarter was a whole new adventure for us. The Campaign pushed us to further build the [reads] brand and it was a crystallizing moment, we started to clearly articulate what [reads] is to an audience.

reads.delivery in Berlin – Dinner & Founders

What role do curators play and how do you choose them?

RACHAEL: Collaborating with curators, authors, illustrators, publishers gives us the opportunity to grow. We have been a fan of Jean Jullien for so long that being able to work with him is huge for us. By now we have this vehicle to meet publishers, so we’ve enjoyed getting to know them, we sit down with DAP for example, every month and talk about current world events, trends, new releases, authors to watch, etc. We had a long conversation about textiles last month and chose the only notebook by Anni Albers ever published. Conversations, our own research, meeting new people, helps us choose who we want to work with and plan out which months we’ll work with a curator. For May we’re working with Brooklyn’s Daniel Salmieri and he was introduced to us by a friend, John Custer.

How do you work as a team?

RACHAEL: Emma does the majority of the curation and legwork with the kids [reads] and also our newsletters. We have an upcoming retreat in Mexico City at the end of April with Subway Book Review and Emma has done the majority of prep work (we’re staying at this special boutique hotel), we will have a local literary dinner with an author,  visit Frida Kahlo’s home. Emma runs our business day to day while I share my time with the rest of the creative studio and client work which I also enjoy. We powwow every week on priorities and try to structure the work in a way that makes sense for each of us.

Where do you see reads.delivery in the future?

EMMA: I think in 5 years it would be fun for us to think about how [reads] can grow into a business that is made up of more than our subscription boxes. We have a huge vision to “Learn Forever” so we would love [reads] to expand into different avenues. We want to take [reads] global with events and public reading spaces in cities around the world. In particular we want to build out a robust kids reading program and a recycled [reads] program that allows people to sign up for the passed down [reads]. We believe that reading should be achievable and affordable for all and we want to help raise a generation who is excited about books.

What are your Top 5 Books?

Emma:

  1. Marguerite Duras  “Writing”
  2. Dallas Clayton “An Awesome Book”
  3. Durga Chew Bose “Too much and not the mood”
  4. Stephen King “On Writing”
  5. Mary Oliver “A Thousand Mornings”

Rachael:

  1. Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer
  2. Mr. Vertigo by Paul Auster
  3. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden
  4. Cassandra at the Wedding Novel by Dorothy Baker
  5. The Monkey Wrench Gang Novel by Edward Abbey

The next box is curated by Daniel Salmierei. You can stay updated (until they deliver to Europe) via their website & Instagram and read their thought on medium. Follow Emma via Instagram here (@emmakay87) & Rachael (@rachaelyaeger) here

Julia co-founded one of the first fashion blogs in Germany in 2007 and became a freelance consultant for digital strategies after publishing her first book in 2010. After an eventful four years with Condé Nast working mainly in the digital department of Vogue Germany, she decided to launch her own online magazine with her dream partner, Veronika Heilbrunner. She is based in Berlin and loves to read books.