I want to be totally transparent about what I received in each box and how much I paid for it and what I honestly think about the contents, so if you’re ready to dig deep into my thoughts on sub boxes, keep reading!
I still feel that sub boxes are overhyped (not that it stops me from watching Youtuber unboxings) and while I’m a fan of books I’m not so much a fan of the merch. Candles named after characters and fictional places don’t do it for me – I like to smell candles before I buy them. Bookmarks just end up collecting dust, as I only use bookjigs or magnetic ones. I’ve got so much jewelry I could wear different items every day for at least a year and not repeat one. Prints can be nice, but I’m picky about art style and I’m already running out of wall space thanks to my growing Sailor Moon shrine print collection. As for pins, I’ve already decorated two jackets to capacity.
As much as I love watching these unboxings (what can I say? I’m nosy!), I’m still skeptical of how sincere people are when they exclaim over how amazing each little item is. Maybe that’s me being a jerk, or maybe it’s someone feeling like they paid $30+ for this box of random stuff and they desperately want to feel like it was all worth it.
Having fallen prey to a true sub box (versus the used mystery paperback I previously received from Odd Voyage), I just wanted to readdress the issue and talk more about my feelings on the whole thing. This is all specific to book sub boxes of course, but my thoughts remain the same for the idea of mystery subscriptions in general.
Oh, and just in case it doesn’t become evident as I go on, I’m not sponsored by PageHabit, nor was I.
I initially saw them mentioned on Hardback Hoarder’s channel and the two features that drew me in were the annotations in each book from the author and the charitable donations each month. Despite being intrigued, I still didn’t subscribe right away. Their box is $29.99 + $4.99 U.S. shipping. That’s $35 dollars I could spend on a couple paperbacks I know I want versus a mystery book I might not enjoy and a bunch of junk. I didn’t subscribe until I entered their contest to win a year’s subscription (which I obviously didn’t win) and got a runner-up prize of free shipping, an extra “goodie” and an extra book in my first box. That was enough to sell me on trying it out – I picked the sci-fi box, by the way.
So here’s a breakdown of what I received, what I spent and what I thought:
October 2017 ($30 – free shipping)
- Unkindness of Ghosts
- The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream (bonus thriller from a previous month)
- Noisy Pumpkin Keychain
- Rocket Tea Strainer (bonus?)
- Cat Coaster (bonus)
- Plus the usual bookmark, short story and donation card
I was impressed with the short story that was included, stuck the bookmark in a drawer where it will be forgotten, and tucked the pillowcase into our spare bedding box. I like the pillowcase, but it doesn’t match our bedding set, so it’ll likely only be used for guests. The tea strainer is useful (though I haven’t used it yet) because I didn’t own one and now I can actually buy loose leaf tea. The coaster is useful too – it’s the one item from the box that I actively use. The pumpkin keychain is sitting on my desk, but I think it’s pretty stupid. As you may know, I did read Unkindness and enjoyed it, but I have yet to read the other one.
My main issue with this box is that had I not won a code for the bonus items, I would have paid $35 for a box that contained a paperback book. I realize Unkindness was only released in paperback, but I could have just gone to the store and bought it for maybe $14. Had that been the only book in my first box, I wouldn’t have continued with the service because I’m in it for the book and annotations, not the goodies.
November 2017 ($15 – two referrals):
- The Spark
- NYC Tote (seriously why does everyone love NYC so much?!)
- Plastic Magnifier…bookmark?
- Bookmark, short, donation card
I have a zillion totes and only use a few of them, so the bag didn’t do much – fortunately a friend was interested and I sent it off as part of her Christmas present. The plastic magnifier might come in handy if I can save it for when I’m older (lol), so it’s currently living in the same drawer with all the bookmarks I’ll never use. The short this month was confusing, though not terrible. The book this month was by an author I’d never heard of and the premise sounded more fantasy than sci-fi – I’ve yet to read it but remain skeptical as to whether I’ll like it, despite reassurances from friends on Instagram who like this author’s work. The other issue with this book is that the author’s handwriting is so cramped that it’s mostly illegible, rendering the annotated post-its useless. Also I think the cover is ugly.
This was the start of my disappointment, but thanks to a couple friends signing up, the price point made it worth it.
December 2017 ($25 – one referral):
- Immortal Life
- Tea Lights
- Keychain (complete with misspelled word)
- Bookmark, short, donation card
After watching a few more Youtube unboxings (some of the accounts I follow are reps…oh sorry, they use “ambassadors”…for PageHabit) I noticed some other people got prize balls. At first I was disappointed about not receiving one (not sure what the determining factor was) but after watching others unravel a ton of crepe paper and whatnot, only to get a little, like, confetti popper thing my disappointment quickly dissipated. I stuck the tea lights on my bookshelf (am I a real bookstagrammer now?!) but they’re not really long enough to look nice. The keychain was a cheap piece of crap that I tossed in the trash after noticing one of the words in the quote was misspelled (it should have said retentive and instead said retentne – what even!?). I’m not the only one who received the dud, so I’d like to know who greenlit that item. It feels like I really only received one item in this box.
I am interested in the book from this month (no, I haven’t read it yet, shut up) and the short was unexpectedly moving, so that was nice. Once again I didn’t have to pay full price, but I’ve hit the point where I’m pretty sure no one else will be using my referral code and I’m not ready to pay the full $35 based on what I’ve received so far.
After the December box I decided to suspend my subscription for a while. I’ve proved to myself that as much as I love surprises, I don’t like paying for the “extras” that come with a book. Of all the extras I’ve received, there were none I was genuinely excited about. Though I still highly value the fact that PageHabit donates to different charities each month and the author insight into the books is a unique touch.
“So you don’t think sub boxes are worth it.” You declare.
After taking a break from PageHabit, I wandered upon Stickii Club. It’s $11 a month and you get sticker sheets and other little extras, plus a pouch to hold them in, based on a theme you pick from. After receiving the January pack, this is something I’ve decided to stick with (HAHAHAH) for a few months at least. But! I have two planners and I write letters to friends, so for me, $11 a month for stickers and something to organize them in is worth it. Whereas $35 for a book and a bunch of junk I won’t use, isn’t.
So I still understand (and fall prey to) the appeal of these mystery box subscriptions. But something I need to remind myself of is that sometimes it’s better to just go spend the money on something I know I want, even if it’s not a surprise, and save the extra that I’m spending on little items I don’t want.
And while I’m not currently getting a PageHabit subscription, I haven’t completely ruled them out. I did notice an option today (as I was skipping the February box) that I hadn’t seen before. They do offer a “just the book” box that contains the annotated book and the bookmark (and the donation of course) that ships for $22. Since that’s the essence of what I enjoy about PageHabit, I might try that out in a month or two.
So, if you’ve made it this far, do you currently subscribe to any boxes? What do you like or dislike (because I can’t possibly be the only one who isn’t wowed by every damn item that comes out of these boxes)? Was my breakdown of each box at all helpful to you?