We need the Post Office to work - publisher

Post Office workers are returning to work. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Post Office workers are returning to work. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – A publishing house says the demise of the SA Post Office should not be an option, as it is the only medium which publishers can use to achieve its goals.

BK Publishing director and publisher Benoit Knox told Fin24 that an “effective, reliable and far-reaching SA Post Office could reach all people in their homes and could bring good, affordable literature to all corners of the country.

“To this end, there is no alternative for the Post Office at this point. It is the only medium which we can use to achieve our goals. We need it to work.”

Fin24 reported this week that many publishing houses were finding alternative ways of delivering its books and magazines to consumers.

READ: Publishers abandon SA Post Office, demand answers

Leisure Books general manager Lana Barnett told Fin24 that it has started using Pargo, a convenient parcel pick-up point solution that allows consumers to collect parcels at a store of their choosing.

Pargo, which launched in December 2014, announced on April 1 that it would now be operating in over 100 outlets nationwide at Caltex's Freshstop and Vee’s Video.

However, this service would not be ideal for a business like BK Publishing, which is a small publishing house that publishes a range of books and a subscription-based magazine, Supernova, the mag for curious kids.

Its entire distribution strategy revolves around a reliable postal service.

BK Publishing primarily focuses on uplifting readers and creating a reading culture. It found that reading at home from a young age was crucial to developing a love for reading.

“The book and magazine retail outlets are in no way able to cater for rural or poor communities and cannot be used by companies like BK Publishing to reach new markets,” said Knox.

Creating a reading culture

When Supernova magazine was started four years ago, Knox decided to focus on a subscription service instead of distribution to retailers.

“We felt that the risk of non-delivery via the post was less than the risk of returns from retailers,” said Knox.

“Through subscriptions we can guarantee readership and predict print-runs. Furthermore, we have found that the printed magazine, delivered in the post, has many benefits in creating a reading culture and our young readers prefer to receive it at home.
“Since 2012 we have managed to circumnavigate the regular yearly postal strikes. The magazine is alternate-monthly and we have been lucky in the fact that it only affected one issue per year for a week or two.”

2014 strike hit the hardest

That was until last year, when everything changed.

During the postal strikes of 2014, two consignments were refused, forcing BK Publishing to send out digital copies in advance to our readers.

“There were moments of confusion where one week the strike was off and the next it was back on again,” said Knox.

“Magazines lay around in the depots for months during the strike and many were lost,” said Knox.

“Magazines that were undelivered, or lost in the ‘black hole’ had to be replaced, at our own cost, doubling and sometime tripling the cost of postage.”

Enduring readers' frustration

“As the publishers, we are ultimately responsible for the delivery and therefore received the brunt of our readers' frustrations. It has been difficult to keep up our reputation and good relationship with our clients.

“Though the majority of magazines arrived safely, albeit months late, our greatest problem today is convincing our new subscribers that the Post Office is reliable. We lose so many potential customers due to the stigma attached to the postal service.

“For our other publications, we were forced to use courier services, resulting in less sales due to high prices. We have not done any concrete research, but I am quite sure that we have lost out on many potential sales through our website due to either the stigma around the post and the inhibiting price of courier services.

“Digital migration is also not a solution for us, as we have seen far too little interest in our electronic editions. Digital migration would also hamper our social goals, as only children with the appropriate technology could benefit from our publications.”

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