May 28, 2021

Book tubers: a new range of titles that literally grow vegetables


Carrots: one of five plants which can be grown from Willsow’s books (Photo by Andrew Rashotte on StockSnap)

Blimey, it seems like gardening is barely out of the news at the moment, right?! One week we’re bringing you news of vegetable king Gerald Stratford’s book deal—and now this! Never say we don’t bring you the most dynamic stories of the day…

This week Business Live reports on a particularly cool idea from the BBC’s Dragon’s Den (a TV show where entrepreneurs show off their business ideas to secure funds from five business leaders, a.k.a ‘the Dragons’). Leicester-based company Willsow are independently publishing books with a twist: you can plant them once you’ve finished reading.

The brainchild of founder Tom Willday and friend and business partner James Coulthurst, Willsow books look just like regular ones, but the back covers can be cut off and sown directly into the ground in Spring, producing vegetables later in the year. As per the Willsow site: “Never have you been able to read a book, plant a page and grow real vegetables, meaning you can meet the main character!”

Business Live adds “Each book tells the story of a vegetable or herb and the cover is impregnated with 500 seeds that grow into plants such as carrots, parsley, dill, basil and lettuce. The books retail for £9.99.”

Dragon Sara Davies MBE bought a 15% stake in Willsow for £20,000, saying “I love it … It feels to me like you would see it in a garden centre on one of the spinning carousels … I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this before, so it seems like a great idea.”

Securing an investment on such a scale will surely prove crucial as the business looks to expand again post-pandemic: in just under 12 months of trading Willsow have sold almost 2500 books and turned over £21,000. A spokeswoman for the company said:

“We’ve bounced back from the global pandemic and are continuing our mission to educate future generations on sustainability … We’re gearing up for our campaign to get children back outside into the fresh air, in touch with nature … We’re a Leicester based brand that produces the books completely in house with 100 per cent sustainability throughout our production process.”

With Willsow still in their germinal stage, it remains to be seen whether they will be a patch on the competition and take root in the public imagination… [OK that’s enough vegetable puns thanks – ed]



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.