Last Call for Letters

November 3, 2023

And: Your Thoughts on Deamazonification

The fall issue of New Maps is almost ready to go to print, but in the remaining few days, here’s one last call for letters. If you have some thoughts on the letters from the previous issue, or on the state of the world in general in this deindustrial age, send me your thoughts at editor@new-maps.com by Monday morning—that’s Nov. 6.

And I’d like to take this extra little outside-the-Letters-section space to raise one more issue that I’d like your thoughts on:

Since the beginning of this project, I’ve had the magazine printed through a print-on-demand service called KDP, which is great at what it does, but with one serious drawback: it’s an arm of Amazon, a company to which most fingers should consider pointing first when contemplating the recent crapification of the economy and the human world.

I’ve dealt with this unsavory fact by aiming to make my business as unprofitable for Amazon as I can. I don’t promote New Maps on Amazon, only on the magazine’s own website, so there are practically no sales of the magazine at retail price through their website, and almost all the magazines they’ve printed for me have been bought by me, at cost, and sent to readers—in the U.S., I send them via the post office, though overseas I have to use Amazon’s own shipping services. All told, the Evil Empire probably makes a few pennies per copy off me.

I’ve stuck with KDP this because I’ve been under the impression that I don’t really have a choice. I would love to patronize the nearest print shop that can bind paperbacks, a unionized shop in Duluth, but they’ve told me it wouldn’t make sense to do a print run until I have several times my current U.S. subscribership. Either way, KDP was, I believed, the only game in town when it came to sending out magazines to international subscribers from my computer here in Wisconsin: international shipping would drive most countries’ rates over $100 a year.

But I’ve recently discovered that there exists at least one more service that can send internationally at costs that aren’t outrageous (a company called Lulu). This is where I need your input.

Lulu’s printing would cost noticeably more. I haven’t fully crunched the numbers, but it looks like the cost of an annual subscription would go up by somewhere in the neighborhood of US $12 to $15, possibly more in some countries. (Note that none of this would affect auto-renewals or payments; all that is totally outside Amazon’s ecosystem.)

Would a rate increase like that be worth it for you to know that New Maps would be getting out of Amazon’s ambit? Or is it too much of a stretch?

There’s a certain timeliness to the question, because after the Fall issue is when the most subscribers will be due to renew. If I’m going to change the price, I’ll need to do it soon, because if all the pre-Winter renewals go through at the Amazon-based price, the only way I could afford to send Lulu-printed magazines out would be to do wait another year—or to do a Kickstarter sort of thing: “Help New Maps upgrade to a different printer—when we meet goal, we can ditch Amazon!”

While I’m throwing out various options to consider, here’s one more: a fair bit of the cost of a subscription goes toward postage. If New Maps came out only twice a year, with double-length issues, the cost of a subscription could come down some: depending on the country, by somewhere between $8 and $16. How would you feel about a biennial magazine?

To put it all in the form of bullet points:

What’s the best option for New Maps?

  • Keep using Amazon as the magazine has since the beginning.
  • Switch to Lulu and raise subscription rates by $12–$15.
  • Switch to Lulu but keep costs similar by moving to biennial publishing.
  • Some other idea of yours?

All that as well as the latest Letters section are, I hope, some interesting grist to consider for your mill. I’ll keep an eye on the inbox. If you don’t have the time to get your letter together by Monday, by the way, please do still send me your thoughts. They may not make it into the Fall issue, but I still want to hear them, and may print them in the Winter issue.

Thanks for reading,

Nathanael Bonnell
Editor