Sunday 29 November 2020

Posting books since 2007

I first posted CBe books from this post office in November 2007. Between then and now, I’ve made more than 1,700 trips to the same post office.

The books posted are those ordered by individual readers from the website. Orders from bookshops are despatched from the distributor, Central Books, but I’m not good at getting the books into bookshops: out of 72 titles published since 2007, 23 – almost a third – have sold fewer than a hundred copies out of Central Books (and 14 of those, fewer than 50).

Postage costs have increased, year on year; the cover price of the books (most of them are £8.99) has not. CBe gets no Arts Council funding. I’m not quite sure how CBe is still alive: something to do, perhaps, with the momentum generated by walking to the post office. I commend to you the Lockdown Subscription offer, available from the website: 10 books of your choice for £65, free UK delivery. Every subscription keeps me posting.

Friday 6 November 2020

Lockdown again

It won’t unlock lockdown, but week by week the CBe Lockdown Subscription will give you something to look forward to: 10 books for £65, posted over 10 weeks. Free UK delivery. Available on the website home page. A subscription now will take you into Christmas and beyond, and what are you going to give to the aunts and the uncles?

The CBe Lockdown Subscription (first offered at the start of the Lockdown 1 in March this year) differs from other subscription models, and also from those ‘curated bundles’, in several ways:
· You choose (if you want to) which books to receive.
· Occasional extras (books, pamphlets, etc.) are thrown in for free.
· You don’t give me your bank details.

Most subscriptions rely on customer inertia. On subscription, the London Review of Books is currently £1 per issue for six months. Shop price is £4.75 per issue. That’s enticing, if you want to read the LRB, or even if you don’t, but then the small print: ‘Then pay just £26.55 per quarter’. And you’ve given them your bank details. This explains, in part, the piles of unread copies of the LRB still in their eco-friendly mailing envelopes in bookish homes: ‘We enjoy intelligent debate; we lead such busy lives we haven’t time to read all that.’

A subscription taken out now will include, if you want, Spring Journal by Jonathan Gibbs, a book of this year whether or not anyone chooses it as such: written in instalments between March and late August, modelled on and responding to Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal, itself a response to the public events and the mood on the streets in the latter months of 1938. Spring Journal is an act of witness: angry, desperately sad, sceptical about what writing is for even as it is written.

Also included (again, only if you want), Will Eaves’s Broken Consort, reviewed in this week’s TLS: ‘Broken Consort is that rare book of criticism: one that tells the truth about the limitations of both reading and writing.’

Spring Journal is available now but is included in the flyer for next year’s books (photo above). I’m getting ahead of myself. Pause: I want to thank all those who have clicked the Lockdown Subscription button during the past months. It’s a way of moving books around and is keeping this small boat afloat.