In February this year, we started offering books via mail order through the Post Office. While this has been extremely popular so far, we regrettably have to suspend this for now. The reasons for this are below.
In the build-up to the release of Koleka Putuma's breakout (and fast-selling) debut Collective Amnesia, I thought I would try offer books via a pre-order mail order campaign. This was so we could be able to offer this important book to places that don't necessarily have bookstores, and to get around South Africa's lacklustre bookselling and distribution networks (no fault, of course, of our awesome distributors at XNA).
In order to keep the book affordable, at R100 per copy, we decided to use the vast infrastructure already put in place by the South African Post Office. Normal postage, without tracking numbers or anything special, is, throughout the vast majority of the country, reliable and surprisingly fast. It seemed a no-brainer, and fell in line with uHlanga's broader philosophy of making books more accessible to South Africans, and to expand this country's reading population.
While this campaign has worked tremendously, with over 200 mail orders of Koleka's book – many of which going to towns and city areas without good bookstores – the vast majority of books going to Gauteng (which in turn constitutes the bulk of our orders) are being seriously delayed or even lost by the South African Post Office.
While a book posted to the rural Eastern Cape might take only five days to arrive, our orders posted to Gauteng addresses are taking upwards of two months. I am currently receiving at least two mails per day from Gauteng customers asking where their books are. It's frustrating for me to have to write to all of them and say, honestly, I don't know – it has everything to do with the Post Office in Gauteng, and they'll just have to wait. But this is an unacceptable answer for many, and it doesn't particularly increase trust in my work.
The plan is clearly not working for one of the main provinces of the country, and as such, it is unacceptable for me to continue giving a unequal service (and in some cases, a disservice) to readers. So I've made the decision to stop offering mail order for our books countrywide until I find a solution to the issue that won't greatly drive up the cost of our books.
If you have ordered already, don't worry – I'll honour your order, and make sure your books get to you. If you are in Gauteng and your book has not arrived, don't worry – I will find ways to get your book or books to you. I apologise for the disappointment, even though, frustratingly, it's completely out of my hands.
For now, regrettably, our books are only available in bookstores and at our events. If your local bookstore does not stock our books, then i) ask them what's wrong with them and why they don't stock poetry and ii) make the order. The more bookstores are asked where our books are, the more they have to listen.
I will make an update to this post once our new online store and mail order service is up and running.