Owl Crate: August 2016 [Subscription Box Review]

Owlcrate is a monthly book subscription box, and the August Owlcrate was my first ever package from this subscription service. Having come across OwlCrate through their Cratejoy page whilst searching for random subscription boxes, I was immediately intrigued. However, the price of the box and high cost for international shipping left me in doubt as to whether I could justify such an expense.

After too many months of deliberation I finally started to scour social media for reviews; hopping backwards and forwards between ‘go for it’ and ‘it is too expensive’. The more reviews I saw, the more I wanted to try this subscription box. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my ‘collection’ of monthly subscription boxes already subscribed to felt incomplete. But the monies I would have to spend each month for OwlCrate kept holding me back. As Owl Crate is located in the U.S. and I live in the U.K. shipping is none too cheap. At last I decided to go for it. I had acted on impulse. Despite the warnings my therapist has given me in the past in re my impulsive behaviours and their negative consequences, once I bit the bullet and subscribed, I was not disappointed with my first box. As the box proved to be excellent value for money, discussed later.

General House-Keeping:

In a nutshell, OwlCrate is a book subscription service that provides one hardback Young Adult (YA) book and 3-5 book related items to its subscribers each month. Each monthly box has a different theme whereby the YA book and related items usually unify to match the prescribed theme. For example, August’s theme was ‘Fast Times at YA High’, in which both the novel and bookish items centred around a high school setting. To view past OwlCrate themes, you can view them on their site (here). Payment options are discussed below.

There are three payment options. Payments can be set up in the following ways: month by month basis; three or six-monthly payments. The latter two payment options are ‘pre-paid’ style and the subscription payments will automatically renew at the end of the initial three or six-month period.

The cost of each subscription option is as follows: month to month basis is 29.99 USD (24.52 GBP);[1] every three months’ is 86.98 USD (71.13 GBP) and six-monthly will cost you 167.94 USD (137.33 GBP). The cost of shipping is not included in these prices. Instead shipping costs are added prior to the final checkout stage. This final stage addition is because OwlCrate has three different shipping rates and as such, each jurisdiction shipped to will incur different postal charges that can only be calculated after you have entered your postal address.

The three shipping rates are as follows: shipping within the USA is $6.99; shipping to Canada is $10.59 and international shipping is $19.99 (approx. £16.35 – expensive times!). For international shipping, not all countries receive tracking information after shipment. For full details of countries in which customers are provided with tracked shipping, check the list (here).

The Box Itself:

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August’s OwlCrate contained the following book and items:

Novel P.S. I Like You by Kasie West; Eleanor & Park-inspired Pendant Necklace (OwlCrate); Hogwarts Button (Taryn Draws); “Golden Trio” Art Print (Susanne Draws); “Stress Relieving Patterns” Adult Coloring Book (Blue Star Coloring); Pocket-Sized Decomposition Notebook (Bookbinders.com); Exclusive ‘P.S. I Like You’ Author Letter, Signed Bookplate and Colouring Pencils.

Each month a sneak peak of the theme for the following month’s box is also provided within each monthly crate. The theme of September’s box was Darkness.

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As this is a book subscription box I first discuss the YA book provided. I then discuss my favourite items in chronological order (as I always do).

‘P.S. I Like You’:

The official synopsis for ‘P.S. I Like You’ is as follows:

‘While spacing out in Chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk, and added a message to her. Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters — sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery, and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…’

I will not discuss the book’s storyline as such, as I risk adding in some spoilers. Instead I will say that in addition to the above synopsis it is an easy and enjoyable read. It also provides its readers with the excellent message regarding the importance of being oneself, through its main heroine Lily. The message throughout focuses on building one’s own self-esteem and structure of self through exploring personal abilities.

This book in its hardback form[2] retails at around 12 USD (9.81 GBP). The book alone brings the box’s value to almost half way there to the cost of the box, minus shipping costs.

Adult Colouring Book:

As a self-proclaimed mindfulness advocate, this colouring book was right up my street![3] I was overjoyed to discover its inclusion in my August OwlCrate. As such, I have added it to my mindfulness colouring book box. The images to colour inside the book are pretty standard, offering flowery and geometric colouring patterns. Despite the standard patterns, I am incredibly happy about its inclusion, as it gives a tip of the hat to the fact that awareness of mindfulness’ benefits is increasing.

The book was supplied by Blue Star Colouring and retails on their website for 14.99 USD (12.96 GBP). A quick glance on the site shows an interesting array of mindfulness book designs.

Decomposition Notebook:

The notebook was a very fitting addition to the box, as it matched a staple artefact held by the heroine within ‘P.S. I Like You’. It is also a very handy bloggers aid, as it is pocket-sized and can easily be carried about in your pocket or bag to pull out when inspiration hits. The design is funky too. I love this little notepad, which is sold by Bookbinders.

On the above site the notebook retails for 8 USD (6.54 GBP).

Eleanor & Park Inspired Necklace:

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Prior to receiving this necklace, I had zero idea who ‘Eleanor & Park’ were. As such, the significance of its inclusion within August’s OwlCrate was inherently lost on me. After a quick online search, I subsequently learnt that Eleanor & Park are characters from a YA novel centred around two high school aged social misfits who come together and fall in love.[4] Beyond this nutshell overview, there is little more commentary I can provide on Eleanor & Park, as I have not read the book. Nor do I intend to. Thus, aside from the necklace’s pretty aesthetics, it ignites no emotional response from me. Although, it is very cool to look at and feels like it has been made by excellent craftsmanship.

From a quirky jewellery lover perspective, I genuinely like this necklace and I could see myself wearing such a style. However, due to its literary significance, I feel it would be best placed in the hands of an Eleanor & Park fan. As such, I think I will include it as a prize in a bookish giveaway I intend to host in the not too distant future.

I could not locate a price for this necklace as it was a custom piece made for OwlCrate. The fact the necklace cannot be purchased anywhere else makes it all the more special in my opinion. As I love receiving unique, limited edition and not mass produced things. In addition, providing us subscribers with custom pieces definitely increases the value of the box.

Although the necklace cannot add a specific financial value to the box per se (as no price is available), its potentially sentimental worth could be argued to increase the box’s value for money objective from a consumer’s perspective. Admittedly, this increase in value is purely subjective. However, I will take a stab in the dark and assume that even the majority of those who have zero knowledge about Eleanor & Park, will find added value derives from the exclusive nature of the product. I have lumped the final items together for discussion, as there is little to say about the majority of them. This is because they are essentially ‘what you see, is what you get’ items.

Badges, Exclusive Author Letter, Print and Pencils:

I will start with my least favourite items from the August box. These items are the Harry Potter items. I will not discuss the pencils beyond the fact that they are merely cute sized colouring pencils and perform their colouring function adequately.

Harry Potter Print and Badge:

Overall, I did not like the Harry Potter (HP) pin and print at all. As I cannot stand HP. I will pre-warn you at this stage that an upcoming paragraph features a dislike of HP rant. Feel free to skip this part and move onto either the last paragraph or the next item discussed.

From a visual perspective I appreciate the print’s art work. It is a unique HP item made exclusively for OwlCrate. On this basis I think it is great item to include within the box, if you are a HP fan. The same sentiments apply to the HP badge. Although I dislike HP, my sister LOVES it and as such, I will include these goodies within her stocking this Christmas. I may go as far as to frame the print for her beforehand. The very mention of HP sets my mind whizzing with frenzied thoughts of dislike. Due to this, I feel a need to vent my opinions and reasons for hating HP. I admit it, I do not just dislike the HP series, I genuinely hate it. As demonstrated below.

I find the HP books and films boring, generic, predictable and far too childishly cheesy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the manner in which good ol’ JK Rowling, wrote the HP series gives the impression that she is a condescending…*insert expletive here*. I support this statement by referring readers to her writing style in the HP novelisations; all of which appear to be lacking in intelligent use of the English language. Cue hate coming my way. It is okay, I am used to receiving trite being thrown in my direction in defence of the Harry Potter series. Phew! I am glad I got that off of my chest. Even if it was a condensed version of my thoughts – haha!

Despite the rant above, I understand that from both a literary perspective[5] and putting myself in the shoes of a HP fan, it would most likely be a commercial mistake not to include some HP related goodies within in some OwlCrate boxes. As the HP franchise is an undeniably popular phenomenon. I am not so short-sighted due to my severe dislike of the HP series that I would ever disregard credit where it is rightfully due. In the case of the HP series, credit is due to its marketability and consequent money making abilities. But I digress.

Author Exclusive Goodies:

Although the Author’s letter and signed book prints included within the box were re-prints, I adored their inclusion. These items offered a very personal touch and are invaluable keepsakes that relate to the book. I have put mine inside the front cover of my copy of ‘P.S. I Like You’. Their inclusion demonstrates the thought that gets put into OwlCrate boxes, as they provided an array of bookish items the majority of which matched the box’s specific theme.

In Summary:

What can I say about my first OwlCrate package? Well, as most likely evident from the above discussions, I have a lot to say about it. The key to conclude this piece will be for me to not babble on too much; despite my desire to gush about the box non-stop. Despite my rant relating to HP, I loved my first ever Owl Crate. Whilst I will not use half of the bookish items included within the August box, I appreciate their inclusion both in terms of subjective value and their exclusive nature.

In terms of overall value for money, this box most certainly ticks the box. As the monetary value of the book (which is also the centre-piece of the box’s rationale) in its hardback version equates to almost half the price of the box itself. In addition, the items I could obtain prices for take the box’s monetary value to far higher than its subscription price. At this stage, these facts alone would render it fair to say OwlCrate is excellent value for money. However, the priced items were not the only goodies to contribute to the box’s value.

There were plenty of exclusive products which could be argued to increase the total value of the box. As they brought in a personal touch dimension with their exclusive nature. All of the above factors will keep me subscribing for a while longer, despite the very high price of international shipping.

In sum, so far so good with this subscription service. The main thing I would like to see changed/offered by OwlCrate is a cheaper international shipping option. Even if this would result in the package taking longer to arrive. Although at present this will not stop me from subscribing to OwlCrate because I like it so much, it may in the future.

 

[1] British pound price is based on the current USD to GBP conversion rates

[2] As was supplied in the box

[3] I have been practicing mindfulness for the past 8 years

[4] If I have missed the core concept of the novel I apologise, as my nutshell overview was based on a quick search of the book’s synopsis and reviews. I have not read this book personally.

[5] When I use the words literary and HP in the same sentence, I am merely acknowledging the fact that the HP series exists in book form and as such, it technically belongs under the ‘literature’ umbrella.

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