Mailing rates: Update

I wrote last December about the cost of mailing my not-very-big paperback novel, The Money Tree, to Canadian destinations: $11.50. I also mentioned I’d be exploring USPO options and last week I did just that, taking ten books across the border to check out US rates. The books were going to individual winners of a Goodreads contest.

What a pleasant surprise! The cost of mailing the same book within the US was $2.79. Furthermore, there was no fussy deployment of measuring tapes that has become the practice at Canada Post. The USPO guy just dropped the book in its envelope on the scale and gave me the price.

$2.79.

I felt as though I’d been transported back in time twenty years, gazing at him with (sorry to say) my mouth slightly open until he asked finally, with a touch of impatience, if it was okay.

Pulled myself together. Very okay, I assured him.

Add a dollar per book for the “truck fee” (don’t you love free trade?) charged by Homeland Security and you’re still only looking at $3.79. Add the conversion rate and my book cost roughly CN$4.17. Still less than forty percent of the Canadian rate.

Moreover, this was first-class, meaning the books get there within a week or two.

I’m of the same mind as before. I realize Canada has a smaller population and therefore fewer economies of scale, but I’m still certain we could get lower rates with freer markets, if Canada Post were stripped of its monopoly.

Gulf Island Memory

Off the west coast of British Columbia lie the Gulf Islands, hundreds of them. The smallest have a population of none, or one plus guests, while the larger islands are home to hundreds or even thousands of permanent residents.

The Islands’ climate has been described by the people at Environment Canada, incorrigible optimists all, as “mediterranean.” The vision of sun and sand conjured up by this word is not met in reality quite as often as the tourist might like, though the weather is certainly mild. That’s one reason why my latest book, The Money Tree, was set here. I felt Juniperus lucre would flourish in the Islands’ environment.

In an early draft, my fictional family, the Frisbys, lived on Thetis Island. It has the distinction of lying directly on the 49th parallel, the border between Canada and the United States, thereby allowing the Frisbys to grow both Canadian and US dollars in their north and south groves. However, for reasons having to do with the plot, the family needed to be further south, which led to the creation of the fictional Ledyard island where they were ultimately planted, along with their trees.

I spent a day on Thetis as a 10-year-old, when our family took the ferry over with my grandfather, visiting from England. I’ve never forgotten it, partly because I ate oysters in the shell for the first time, plucked off the beach by my grandfather, and also because we had two flat tires, one when we were visiting a retired captain and his wife on their farm and thus missed the little ferry back to Vancouver Island; and another one in the evening, while en route to the larger ferry at Nanaimo, a few miles north. We arrived home very late indeed, but that day remains as a happy memory.

The greatest drawback to living on one of the Gulf Islands is the ferry service, which can be infrequent or expensive or both. Many islanders have their own boats or (like the rich realtor in my story) seaplanes, allowing them easy access to Vancouver or Bellingham at any time. However, the ferry is no issue at all for those who live there because they love island life, and feel no need to go anywhere else. I think I’d be one of that group.