My desire to offer a print-on-demand (POD) version of my short story collection, The Year of the Elm, is close to fruition. I’ve completed the content formatting and cover design, and passed CreateSpace’s submission tests for both files.
Yesterday I ordered my first proof. While filling out the ordering form I was given the following shipping options:
- Economy Shipping $3.61 Estimated Arrival Date: Tue, Jan 18, 2011
- Standard Shipping $6.39 Estimated Arrival Date: Wed, Jan 12, 2011
- Priority Shipping $24.78 Estimated Arrival Date: Tue, Jan 04, 2011
Now, keep in mind that I ordered my proof on December 30th. That means the estimated shipping times for the above options are 19 days, 13 days and 5 days respectively. Those times also include 3, 2 and 1 weekends, respectively — and all include a national holiday for New Year’s Day.
The shortest option — Priority Shipping — is essentially a two-day option interrupted by the long New Year’s Day weekend. The problem I have is that I could FedEx a small paperback for half the cost and guarantee that it would arrive overnight. For $24.78 I could probably ship a cinder block and have it arrive a couple days later.
The middle option — Standard Shipping — takes close to two weeks, but the cost is a fourth of the Priority Shipping rate. Add in the fact that there are two weekends (one of them long) in that estimated delivery time, and that’s $6.39 for delivery over eight business days. Not bad. Not great, but not bad.
The longest delivery time belongs to the Economy Shipping rate: almost three full weeks, including three weekends. The cost is half the standard shipping rate, or one seventh of the Priority rate. The additional delay relative to Standard shipping is roughly an additional week.
So what did I choose? I chose the Economy Shipping rate.
Why? Because I can’t get my mind around how it will take three weeks to ship a package that weighs almost nothing halfway across the country. I’m not saying it can’t be done. For all I know it’s going to be strapped to a mule, or used as a doorstop for two weeks before it’s tossed in the mail.
I do know book-rate shipping times are slow, but I still can’t conceive, in this day and age, of a shipping process that will function in such a slothful way. The entire universe of package delivery is aimed at speed and honed by competition between the U.S. Post Office, FedEx, UPS and other players. Even if CreateSpace’s estimates reflect what their shipping partners tell them, how can it be more profitable for a modern shipper to retain custody of a package over a longer period of time? Delivery by ground is obviously cheaper and slower than air, but other than trucking what options are there that would require three weeks of handling? Bicycle? Dog sled? Delivery by hitchhiker?
The bottom line for me is that I didn’t believe CreateSpace’s estimate of the shipping time for Economy delivery. I could be wrong — for all I know it might take two months for the proof to arrive — but I don’t think so. If it takes a week less then I saved myself half of the Standard rate for the same shipping time. And if it shows up sooner my savings only grow.
Twelve hours after I placed the order, CreateSpace sent me an email telling me the proof had already shipped. (Amazing in itself.) I’ll let you know when and how it arrives.
— Mark Barrett