Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another Slap to the Used/Rare Book Trade

The latest big story to rock the used and rare book world is the Post Office's decision to end international surface shipments as of mid-May: "These so-called surface deliveries have been the crucial method by which booksellers have sold books to foreign markets because the cost is about one-third that of air mail," the NYTimes reports.

USPS said that surface shipments accounted for just 2.7% of international mail, and that the demand for airmail shipments has increased. A spokeswoman told the Times "The Postal Service has a longstanding commitment to small businesses and is working to accommodate customers’ needs as the international mail changes take effect," promising "customized agreements" for "higher-volume shippers."

But there will likely be no "customized agreements" for the used/rare booksellers who may make just a few international sales per month where the customer wants surface shipment rather than airmail. A few, maybe, but usually fairly important nonetheless. One bookseller says "I think the Postal Service dangled that to defuse any pushback. If they were really serious about this, they would’ve pushed back the cancellation of surface mail until they could incorporate these other standards."

A surprisingly detailed and comprehensive article from the Times about this, kudos to Bob Tedeschi for a nice job done. This decision will undoubtedly have a major ripple affect across the book world, and the trend will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

Joyce has more,