Friday, 22 May 2020

Books and deliveries in a time of coronavirus

Almost two months ago now I wrote about the problems of ordering books from overseas, given the near total disappearance of international flights.

While there is still a surface mail service with packages sent by sea, in reality most small packages are normally sent by air, but the absence of flights has led Australia Post for one to suspend its international economy service, and warn that standard rate packages may be sent by sea.

What happens to economy rate packages in transit from overseas is anyone's guess. Different postal organisations may have dealt with mail differently. Given that most of my books in transit originate from the UK I did check the Royal Mail's website, which was singularly unhelpful.

However, it's more complex than it first appears - companies often outsource their delivery services to fulfillment companies who then use different countries postal services to send the mail on.

I've had packages posted from Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, despite having been ordered from bookshops in the UK. And I'm guessing that different postal authorities may be handling matters in their own way. But what we can say is that the post will be delayed.

As a result we are living in a nineteenth century style world of uncertainty. Packages trapped in the shutdown will undoubtedly arrive, but when and by what route is anyone's guess.

Letters (should anyone still need to write by hand) will take between four and five weeks, and yes. occasionally there are documents that need to be signed and returned, rather than scanned and emailed. As I say, we have returned to nineteenth century style isolation.

However, there are signs that the mail is beginning to move again. About a month ago, I ordered a book from Blackwell's in Oxford. It arrived today courtesy of Jersey Post.

I have a couple of books that I ordered earlier in April that have yet to arrive. Having received one item, I'm now confident the others will arrive (eventually).

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