Almost a year ago now I had the honour of helping to beta test a new service. Designed for kids ages 0 to 8, Mail a Tale offers a monthly books in a box subscription. The packages go out once a month, for $19.95, plus shipping, you get two softcover books or one hardcover book. For $39.95 you get four softcover books or two hardcover books, and that includes free shipping.
I love books. My house could double as a lending library. My children own hundreds of books. But I had a couple of concerns with this service. The main one being that I couldn’t justify the cost. My kids have lots and lots of books, but I think I can count the number I have paid full retail for on the fingers of just one hand. Every year at Christmas we get tons of Big Book Store gift cards, I wait for a sale and then spend an hour or two carefully weeding through the kids discount books section. Or I pick them up used at garage sales.
So I helped with the beta, received my two months worth of books, answered surveys, offered feedback and then moved along. When Mail-a-Tale officially launched I sat with my finger on the checkout button, seriously tempted to buy my kids another month or two of service. But in the end, I passed. As much as my kids love the getting a package in the mail aspect of the program, the idea of paying $20 for the novelty of two books arriving in the mail just didn’t gel for me.
So what changed my mind? Why am I writing this now?
It is the fact that the books that they sent me in those two packages, each has become a much read favourite, each was a hidden gem. Books I would never have sought out, never have purchased, never have found lingering on the discount shelf. It’s only now, ten months later, that I am realizing just how truly amazing the book selections they sent me were. And as I watched the service develop, and quietly stalked their Facebook page, I had a sort of epiphany.
The folks behind Mail a Tale love books. They really, really, love books. They get books and they also get kids. Which is a priceless combination. The value in their service isn’t in having a few book delivered to your door each month, it’s in the carefully curated content, with age specific suggestions that are bang on. It’s like having your own private librarian, and a really great one at that, making book recommendations tailored just to your kid.
Plus, much like every kid, my girls really do dig that whole getting a package in the mail thing. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that their personalized packages are lovely. Beautifully packaged, with little extras like bookplates and reading guides.
All of which makes Mail a Tale the perfect Christmas gift. This year instead of those Big Book Store gift cards I’m hoping that maybe a few of our relatives will buy my daughters a Mail a Tale gift subscription.EDIT: Update, as of May 2013 their website is no longer accessible, so I’ve removed the links in this post. Unfortunately I believe Mail a Tale has gone out of business.