On Going Postal(ly)

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Ed. Note: You’re reading this because since the publication of this column in March we have joined the ranks of true online publications (take that international shipping rates!) Every story published in the paper is also online, as is our archive.  Now wherever you are, and whatever format you prefer, we’ve got you covered. We hope this helps us to become a truly global trad jazz paper.


Static From My Attic

When I began publishing The Syncopated Times in February 2016, I stated my determination to reach out beyond the arbitrary borders of this country to offer a truly international jazz paper. Despite my best efforts and intentions, the success of this initiative has been decidedly mixed.

There were 36 international postal subscribers on the mailing list of The American Rag when I picked up the baton from the previous publisher; today I mail the corporeal Syncopated Times to 16 people outside the US. The good news is that some of those original readers have migrated over to the more economical option of receiving the PDF edition, which they download via email link. A few, of course, have migrated off the planet entirely.

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The Rag also used to boast a “Jazz in Britain” column by the late Horace Meunier Harris, who passed away at age 90 in October 2016. The Syncopated Times would surely benefit by including a sprightly and engaging column that covered jazz happenings outside the US—but no writer from foreign climes has thus far offered to contribute.

Happily, a number of new international readers have availed themselves of the digital option where the expense of having the physical paper sent to them was too great. And a few insist on having their jazz news printed on deceased trees, a desire that I am delighted to be able to accommodate—even as our world (and its postal regulations) grow more complicated.

Things proved a bit more complicated last month as I set out to print labels for the copies sent outside the US from here. International postal regulations had changed, and while I was napping. Suddenly, I found I could no longer print international labels for postal “flats,” which refers not to the shoes my letter carrier wears but to the large envelopes in which The Syncopated Times is mailed.

It turns out that the USPS had been getting something of a pass sending out these “flats” internationally, and the Universal Postal Union was forcing them into compliance with their own standards. According to the Endicia shipping blog, “In order to comply with standards established by the Universal Postal Union, as of January 21, 2018 the USPS will only allow you to use First-Class Mail International flats to ship documents. In other words, you won’t be able to directly ship merchandise using FCMI flats.” And “merchandise” here includes “periodicals”—which includes, unfortunately, The Syncopated Times.

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“Flats” now would come under the heading of “First Class Package International Service” with the price being $9.50—even for one ounce, even 100 miles from here into Canada. Therefore, the postage to send a five-ounce flat containing a three dollar newspaper from Utica, New York, to Toronto, Ontario, increased from $3.12 to $9.50.
Subscribers in Canada could probably hear my loud profanity even without amplification. After I caught my temper and soothed it with comfort food, I read Endicia’s fine print. They had a solution—and were coy about revealing it. “Endicia offers a new service that will essentially let you keep the benefits (and lower pricing) of shipping with First-Class Mail International flats.” Lest I ruin it for everyone, I will not divulge what has been vouchsafed to me. I had to be spanked with canoe paddles and sign a contract in my own blood before I was admitted to the Inner Circle. Worse, I had to download and learn to operate new software.

I’ll say this much: the word “essentially” is the key here. So, while I don’t have to pay the above-stated First Class Package price to send pressed wood pulp to Canada or overseas, my mailing expenses have increased considerably—but not unmanageably. The immediate benefit is that I was able to get the February issue out to my international print subscribers via this work-around, and I didn’t have to send them apologetic letters explaining why their subscriptions had to be canceled.

Subscribers in Canada and overseas who have extant paid subscriptions will receive every copy they have paid for. I state that with great relief. Renewing or new print subscribers will have to pay more for what they have been getting. The cost of a year’s subscription to Canada has been increased from $52 US (which was priced low) to $100 US. To Europe, Asia, and elsewhere, the cost is now $135 US per year. (Price here is calculated on the basic cost of the paper plus mailing expense.)

I was at first nervous about the PDF edition being shared so freely that people would not want to pay for the paper. And I continue to assert that The Syncopated Times by design looks much better on the page rather than on a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone. But wherever you live, if you send me $30 US by check or PayPal and ask for digital, I will put you on the email list for the PDF link.

And if you still want to go postal, I will be most happy to mail you my paper.


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