Book Biz: Drone Delivery, Travel Guides Relaunch, Censorship Growing

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I don’t really understand why so many people dislike the United States Postal Service. I’ve always liked the Post Office (and I’m not alone). When I was a kid I collected stamps and learned more about American history and geography by gluing commemorative stamps into my album than I would have otherwise learned until high school.


And I remember that Ben Franklin (the patron saint ofben franklins post office 1 printers) was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 at the age of thirty. His office was so efficient it actually ran at a profit which he reported to the British Postmaster General.


And that early American leaders envisioned the role of postal delivery as a way to unify the colonies and a year before the Constitution was signed established the Second Continental Congress named a Postmaster General to operate out of Philadelphia and establish other post offices “from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia” as seemed necessary.


Later, the existence of the postal authority was guaranteed in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to serve 4 million residents using the 75 post offices then in the country.


post office early iconSure enough, postal service expanded with the country, but some say the country expanded with the postal service. Transporting goods via the post office proved so effective that 80,000 bricks needed to build a bank in a secluded Utah city were sent Parcel Post, 49 pounds at a time.


As a printer it’s assumed that I have an obligation to encourage the government to continue to subsidize bulk (aka junk) mail by providing extremely low rates. As you can see, it’s no secret that low bulk mail rates support increases in print tonnage. Unfortunately (for printers) the Postal Regulatory Commission has raised postage rates citing low but persistent inflation.


But while I was reading the article linked above, one phrase stuck out; “Due to a regulation, the USPS cannot base an exigent increase on the continuing effects of electronic diversion.” Even as Congress deals with conservatives who want to privatize mail delivery, it has also effectively stacked the deck against the US Post Office only to crow about its inherent inefficiency when the inevitable happens and service suffers as rates increase.


The postal service has historically been a cash cow for Congress to raid, yet Congress has hobbled it by asking it to behave as a profitable corporation. But it has granted it no control over its pricing or services and is subject to the whiff of the lobbyists’ cigar smoke at every turn.


Even in Canada, which proudly calls its postal service Canada Post Corporation because it has the ability to sell stock in itself, is overseen by Parliament and Cabinet and is also crushed by the bureaucracy governing it, and so Canada has just announced it will discontinue door-to-door mail delivery in favor of centralized (down the block, ’round the corner) delivery.


So the great seers of the Cato Institute (motto:Millard Fillmore was a great President) gravely pronounced the post office a doomed relic nearly thirty years ago that needed to be privatized; which makes you wonder who would want to enter a “doomed” industry anyway, now or then?


More likely, the Institute sees what the editors of Forbes see: the post office still controls the gateway to putting printed products on your tables and desks and that direct mail in the hands of marketers kicks the crap out of digital advertising splashes we are all so bored with.


The short-comings of the private carriers over the holidays has not produced any cries to “federalize” their services so presumably, incompetence can be tolerated in the private sector.


If the drum beat to privatize postal service continues in America, I think there should be two stipulations; the independent company must deliver mail on a timely basis to every citizen of every state and Congress gets to set the rates.


I believe in a level playing field.

But Does He Get Royalties?


A 19 year old William Powell wrote a book, The Anarchist Cookanarchist cookbookbook, that has become the de facto guide for mayhem and violence over the past four decades. He has openly asked that the publisher, Delta Press, allow the book to go out of print, but with 2+ million copies sold, the publisher has declined. There’s no mention if Powell continues to profit from his writing.


Textbooks via Drone


zookalWhile Amazon plans on using drones for 30 minute deliveries in the future, Australian textbook rental company Zookal will be “up and running” next fall.


Poland Tries to Ensure Profits


Alarmed at the decrease in book sales and the shrinking number of book publishers in Poland, its legislature has passed a law stipulating that books must be sold at their cover price for the first year and a half of publication. Does Amazon have to abide by this?


Calling for Writers of a Certain Age


AARP and Huff/Post50 are looking for well told memoirs in a writing contest that offers $5,000 and extensive publication to the story awarded first place. Details are here.


Future Print


Frank Romano may be the most respected analyst/ commentator from the world of print. Here, Frank takes a look at “The Ghost of Printing Yet To Come” with a wink and a laugh.


lonelyplanet2New Life for Travel Guides?


As we reported last April, the future seemed bleak for stalwart travel publishers Frommers and Lonely Planet as they were jettisoned by their new owners just months after their acquisition.Lonely Planet has been resold (at a 50% loss to the sellers) to NC2 Media, while Frommers has been rescued by its former owners, the Frommer family, and rebranded as “Frommers Media”.


More on Metadata


Thanks to Edward Snowden and the NSA intelligence snooping he revealed I think we all have a better sense of what metadata is. BISG has just released an updated version of Best Practices for Metadata report, available here at no charge. Makes me wonder; do any companies opt for just good enough practices?


B&N Needs to Compete on Price


Could B&N’s path to survival begin by adopting a price-match program similar to the one that sparked Best Buy’s resurgence?


Reading Books for Your Mental Health


I’ve always believed there were myriad benefits enjoyed by reading a book. Now, Book Prescription believes that bibliotherapy can help to combat depression.


Apple Anti-Trust Monitoring


Last summer a federal judge appointed a monitor to scrutinize Apple’s alleged collusion with five publishers to set ebook pricing. Apple has asked for a new monitor, claiming the current one is too aggressive.


Most Expensive Book in the Worldrare-book-of-psalms


Although only three copies have been sold in the past 130 years, each time a Bay Psalm book, believed to be the first title printed in America, changes hands it sets a new record for rare book pricing. The latest sale, one of eleven surviving copies, set the new record at $14.2 million.




November’s reminiscence about what a great bookstore New York City’s The Strand is, was published just prior to the Strand posting its best Christmas sales in its 86 years history. You’re welcome.


Books go Upscale


As a reaction to the bare-bones experience of reading ebooks, publishers are finding ways to enhance the inherent value of their printed books. We work with some publishers who do this by simply making the highest quality book possible in which to present their content.


North Carolina Censorship


In a bid to maintain its historic support of ignorance, a county in North Carolina wants to ban Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.Doonesbury describes the state. Alarmingly, there have been reports that censorship efforts are increasing across the country.


Final Thought


A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors. Henry Ward Beecher


About Wayne Johnson 69 Articles
I've worked in book manufacturing for over 30 years, closing my company Baker Johnson, Inc. in 2005. Currently I work freelance with a large group of publishers, advising them on the printing options available to them as the book industry endures major restructuring. My wife Cathy is a retired psychologist and spent most of her career working with the youth at Maxey Boys Training School. She is a small mammal rehabilitator with Friends of Wildlife. Our daughter Whitney is a PharmD working in the Denver area evaluating the pharmaceutical requirements of nursing homes. Our son Eliot lives in Waterloo and is an editor at Mathematical Reviews in Ann Arbor.

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