Box sets are what we in the publishing world refer to as a collection of multiple books packaged together. However, while they are sold as a single sellable item, the end consumer is able to remove an individual book from the set at their reading pleasure. An omnibus edition, on the other hand, combines multiple books into a single bound volume that can’t be separated unless you were to slice through the book’s spine (the horror!).
Both options allow publishers a way to offer a complete series, or at least a larger portion of a series, to readers at a lower price than the cost of purchasing individual books. The terms can also be used to describe ebook collections. However, while the term box set is the trendier way to describe consolidated works, it is worth noting that Amazon, and other ebook distributors, frown on publishers describing ebook collections as box sets as there is no physical box around the set.
That said, while a publisher should not describe their ebook collection as a box set in its retail listing, a publisher can still use a 3D image of a box set on most sites. Apple’s ibook store is the notable exception here. The same cannot be said about listings for physical copies. Publishers must use an image that matches what a print consumer will physically receive once they place their order.
For example, this is how I am displaying my upcoming publication: Project Gene Assist: The Complete Series (which is available for pre-order now in ebook format and will be available in both paperback and ebook format after November 16, 2021).
Of course, with anything, box sets and omnibus editions have their pros and cons:
Box sets vs Omnibus Books: Pros & Cons
|Box Sets||Omnibus Editions|
|Pros||Make great gifts||Make great gifts|
|Save readers money||Save readers money|
|Allow you to take a break from reading a series without the guilt of leaving a bookmark in the middle of a volume||Take up less room on your bookshelf, allowing you to fill that space with more books|
|Cons||Force you to take even extra care of individual book’s bindings in order to keep the book from warping or swelling and thus being unable to fit back into its boxy sleeve||The sheer size of these volumes can intimidate the casual reader|
|Take up more room on your bookshelf than individual books unless you throw away that beautiful box sleeve||Less travel-friendly. The weight alone could force you to pay the oversized baggage fee at the airport.|
|Cost more than omnibus editions to produce and so are typically more expensive than their omnibus cousins||Have I mentioned how big these are? Seriously, I worry it is bullying the other novels on my shelf when I am asleep|
Does a series have to be complete To Be Combined?
Does a series have to be complete to be offered as either a box set or omnibus edition? The answer is no, but it helps from a marketing perspective. This is because readers are more likely to buy a book (or a set) if they know they aren’t going to have to wait an age to learn how the series ends. Additionally, because a publisher does not have to include every book in the combined edition, sets can also serve as a convenient launching pad for later books in longer series.
For instance, my youngest son, LT, is a huge fan of sharks and humor books, so I got him the omnibus edition of The Bad Guys Books 1-3 by Aaron Blabey, which features a shark (among other characters) who decides he’s tired of being stereotyped as a bad guy and goes on missions to save the world along with other often maligned characters.
I felt confident he would like the series based on the premise, so buying a single volume that offered 3 books in one just made sense to me. It then turned out the series is much, much longer. I immediately had to go out and buy additional books in the series one by one. In this case, I guess you could say that the omnibus acted as a gateway drug. (Absolutely worth it though to hear LT laugh with each page)
The same thing happened when LT and I read the Wayside School 3-Book Collection by Louis Sachar. The only difference was instead of being an all in one volume, the 3 books were offered together packaged in a cardboard sleeve. We then had to run out and get the fourth book in the series.
So which is better? A box set or an omnibus edition? The answer, of course, comes down to the preference of the individual reader, but I am happy to say I’m making the move to give readers like you this option.