May 30th, 2011 09:52 EST
The Cost of Shipping Books Stands in The Way of Greater International Understanding
The Anglosphere is immense. Its culture would be manifestly enhanced by an international convention devoted to the reduction of the price of shipping books across borders.
India publishes more books in English than the rest of the English-speaking world together. Production costs are modest, but shipping costs are relatively high. For a developing country, this is a major deterrent. Worse, the situation fragments the Anglophone world.
But the cost of doing business is not the only issue. International understanding and cross-cultural pollination suffer from prohibitive shipping costs.
The Francosphere is another victim. A small press in Algeria, for example, encounters many vexations trying to reach the rest of the Francophone world, not only because shipping is expensive but also because credit cards are discouraged in Algeria. This hampers entrepreneurial development in such emerging countries and it prevents them from making full use of their bilingualism.
Similarly, the vast Arabophone world encounters difficulties in its efforts to reach a larger market, not only in other Arabic-speaking countries but in the rest of the world. This is a particularly volatile issue because so much misunderstanding afflicts Western thinking about the Arabs.
It may be said that shipping costs the world over deter cultural interchange and operate as a barrier to global understanding at the same time that the Internet offers new opportunities to communicate cheaply. The publishing industry could benefit handsomely from an international initiative to reduce the cost of shipping books. There are, of course, special interests standing in the way. American publishers, for example, would look askance at giving cheap-labor markets the means to ship books to North America less expensively.
Addressing this issue could accomplish more than diplomacy in the interests of cultural exchange and understanding. If shipping costs could be moderated many Anglophone writers in India would have wider audiences to open more windows on Indian life.
The same is true for Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. These countries, along with Mali and other former French colonies, have natural audiences in other countries, but shipping costs are standing in the way of a more vibrant Francosphere. More practical solutions than diplomacy must surely be available, but there has been little discourse about the relative merits of lower book shipping costs versus special interests.
Relying on foreign correspondents is no longer a sensible way of informing ourselves about other societies. We should be reading each other`s books. To some extent, both the e-book and print-on-demand in the country of delivery rather than the country of origin promise to break down shipping barriers. So we`re dealing with a great deal of spilled milk; it`s too bad this problem of prohibitive shipping costs wasn`t addressed sooner, but that`s no reason not to address it now.
One measure of how inattentive we have been to this issue, how unmindful of its cultural impact, is to search book shipping " on the web. You can even add costs " to the search string, but for the most part you will simply come up with ways to ship books. You will not come up with an informative discussion of the anti-cultural nature of the problem.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com