The Magical Allure of Boxed Sets

When I was a kid, shopping for books was exciting. I loved to browse the shelves (mostly in Science Fiction and Fantasy, but sometimes in Mystery and sometimes in the confusing tangle that was Fiction and rarely, very rarely, in the tiny section labeled Children’s.) My parents could usually be conned into springing for a paperback, especially after I told them that this was my faaaaaavorite author with a brand neeeeeeeew book.

But better than buying a new book? Buying a boxed set.

Those cardboard frames were magical. They hinted at days and days and days of reading. Sometimes, they were wrapped in plastic, so you didn’t know if there was going to be something extra tucked between the cover of the first book and the cardboard box – a sticker, maybe, or even a folded “poster” printed on 8.5 x 11 paper.

Boxed sets didn’t offer any price advantage. The cost of the set was the total of the cost of the individual volumes. But nevertheless, boxed sets held a magical attraction.

I still have some of my favorite boxed sets: The Lord of the Rings, of course, and The Earthsea Trilogy, John Christopher’s original Tripod trilogy and Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series.

In the brave new world of ebooks, boxed sets aren’t quite the same. Most notably, of course, the “box” doesn’t actually exist.

But boxed sets bring together magical collections of books. Sometimes, authors choose to work together, sharing their thematically-linked novels with readers. Sometimes, traditional series are pulled together in their entirety. Sometimes (hint, hint!) other links exist between the books.

In the modern ebook world, boxed sets usually offer one crucial advantage: Price. An ebook boxed set costs less than the individual volumes would cost.

A case in point: my Magical Washington: Four in Hand, published by Book View Café earlier this week. Four in Hand doesn’t pull together all ten of the the Magical Washington books; that would be a huge file, with extra charges for downloading. Rather, Four in Hand collects the first book in each Magical Washington series:

A librarian who finds out she’s a witch—Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft.

A clerk of court for the vampire night court—Fright Court.

A warder who juggles work, warfare, and protecting Washington’s witches—The Library, the Witch, and the Warder.

A witch who loses her powers the night a Secret Service agent vampire appears in her hospital’s emergency room—The Witch Doctor Is In.

Four complete books for less than ten bucks. That’s a better deal than the boxed sets of my youth!

Did you have a favorite boxed set when you were growing up? If so, what was it?

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The Magical Allure of Boxed Sets — 7 Comments

    • Wait! I had that one too! But I got frustrated deciding what order to shelve them, after they started putting them in chronological order…

    • Me too!!! Mine is falling apart, but I cannot bear to throw it away. I bought it with babysitting money right before high school. I remember sniffing the pages as I read the books for the second time, high in the mountains on a family vacation. It was, if possible, even better on the second reading.

  1. Yes, that same old 60s Lord of the Rings set with the charming covers. I now have a newer trade paperback set — one of them autographed by John Rhys Davies, who played Gimli. (I met him when attending a fancy Seattle showing of the 2nd film to benefit environmental causes.) And, Mindy, you’ve snared me with these fascinating magical D.C. novels! Excellent stories and characters.

    • Thank you for the kind words! (I bought a beautiful paperback set of LotR in Canada — jet black covers with emblems on them. I haven’t read them — they sit on the shelf next to my disintegrating childhood versions…)