UPDATED:New postal rate scheme written by Time Warner threatens existence of small magazines

This 30-40% rate increase for small magazines is yet another assault on the intent of the founding fathers and long-standing American tradition. It is also a blow to the small business man, to our literary and political discourse,  and to freedom of speech.  This will be the knockout punch to many small but important journals. 

A great Bushco/GOP twofer: Cosmo, Forbes, People and the corporate profits will be spared, and the liberal exchange of ideas will be stifled.  We have to get Congress to act.

link

In late April, the 26-year-old publisher of the independent music and fiction magazine Verbicide got word that starting on July 15, his shipping rates would increase by somewhere between 30 and 40 percent. [while the large-circulation publications will pay perhaps 10% more]

“It’s not going be the thing that kills me,” he says via phone from his office in Vermont, “but coupled with the lack of advertisements and the general slump in print publications, it could be the thing that pushes me over the edge….

Ellis’s sentiment is shared by plenty of other independent publications such as the Nation, the National Review and Mother Jones, who are stupefied that they’ll be paying more in periodical postage while larger publications will pay only around 10 percent more. Then again, maybe it’s not all that surprising once you learn where the proposal originated: Time Warner.

The proposal was accepted by the Postal Regulatory Commission on March 19, in lieu of a universal increase that the U.S. Postal Service suggested — an unprecedented milestone that implies something even scarier: the privatization of the Postal Service, which could, in effect, undo 215 years of universal postal policy…

“They got lobbied by these billionaire publishers — and that said enough to them.” He continues: “They aren’t concerned with free press and keeping it affordable. Whether or not the postal rates are high or low, at least they’ve always gone up the same amount for everyone until now, whether you’re Time Warner or my company, Scissor Press.”

And that’s not the only problem for small publishers. In addition to the price of stamps increasing from 39 to 41 cents, the Postal Service is also discontinuing international surface mail and raising the rates for media mail, both of which were created to make the distribution of information affordable and accessible.

Last year, the last independent magazine distributor, Independent Press Association, went out of business and took many smaller magazines off the newsstands — and now these latest post hikes could make the prospect of independent publishing even more dismal. “I don’t think we deserve this,” Ellis admits with a sigh. “I feel like I’ve worked really hard, and I’ve been running a really honest business for a long time, and instead of getting some respect, the industry and the government are turning their back on me.”
In fact, at this point, he’s considering giving up the magazine altogether — a sentiment that’s likely to be echoed by many of his peers who also lack six-digit circulation numbers or parent companies. “

This is very bad, and very un-American; the founding fathers intended that the postal service would play an important role in disseminating information, and by that they didn’t mean the shit that TimeWarner turns out. This is another blow to the publishing industry, particularly that part that makes ideas and literature available.
Please write to your Congresspeople to get this reversed.

UPDATE: From the Boston Globe:

The Nation says its costs could jump by $500,000. But this isn’t just whining about the rising costs of doing business. This is a clash pitting big-time publishers against small journals that enrich the public debate far more than their modest budgets suggest. …

The Postal Service’s mission, set by federal law, is to “bind the nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people.” It has a history of protecting the spread of information. So whether grandma lives down the street or in another time zone, a stamp for her birthday card costs the same.

Price protection has also been crucial for small magazines, helping them to add politically and socially diverse voices to the public arena. “In short, the post office and press together constituted the most important mechanism for the dissemination of public information at least until the Civil War,” Richard B. Kielbowicz writes in his book “News in the Mail: The Press, Post Office, and Public Information, 1700-1860s.”

Now, of course, there’s the Internet, which makes publishing seem easy and cheap. But as The Nation’s president, Teresa Stack, says, mailing out copies to paying subscribers is still largely how small magazines make money. Web content is often an extra that doesn’t generate income. Without income these publications can’t survive, and the public loses out when those voices are silenced.

Congress should take a fresh look, and pursue a more public -minded rate plan. The post office is no longer a federal agency, and it does have to support itself. But the country still needs a mail service that protects public access to as much information as possible.

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Filed under books, George W. Bush: is he really THAT bad?, Politics

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