Just over a year ago the CC Publications Committee decided that some major changes were needed to its operation to allow it to continue to provide a service to the Exercise in the longer term, and that these would be best made at a time when things are running reasonably smoothly. The main changes thought necessary involve the storage and distribution burdens, but also include methods of accepting payments and making titles available on-line. A comprehensive consideration of potential approaches to storage and distribution concluded that the only currently viable way ahead would be to reduce the hard copy stocklist, to arrange for other titles to be made available on-line, and to continue with the present storage and distribution arrangements for the hard copy stocklist titles.

We presently offer three broad categories of books:

  1. Those which sell well on a long term basis, comprising around 20% of the current list;
  2. Those which sell well when first published but whose sales then tail off quite quickly; and
  3. Those which never sell well, which have been printed purely as a service.

It was agreed that we should move towards a situation in which:

  1. Books judged to be in category 1 would be produced and sold as at present;
  2. Those judged to be in category 2 would initially be produced and sold as at present but, on a case by case basis, might be placed on-line at no charge rather than reprinted; and
  3. Those judged to be in category 3 would probably not be printed at all, but placed on-line free of charge immediately.

An initial list of over 30 titles which now sell in very small numbers was identified and it was agreed that these should be made available on-line free of charge as soon as possible. About half of these, most professionally produced, are now available via our on-line price list and the others will follow. We carry significant stocks of some of these titles and will continue to offer hard copies for sale while stocks last.

With the generous expert help of other Council members, notably Fred Bone, Mike Chester and Peter Trotman, we have also been working on accepting credit and debit card payments via PayPal, in addition to BACS payments, cheques and cash. At the time of writing we are in the final stages of testing this new facility. Use of PayPal presents its own problems and we have decided that we must keep the system as simple as possible in the first instance. In line with this general intention two key decisions have been made:

  1. Discounts will not be offered for PayPal payments, at least until we see how the system settles down. This is because we have to pay charges on orders placed using PayPal; because we have recently changed our discount policy and may well make further changes fairly soon; and because only a small proportion of our orders presently attract the existing 15% general discount. It should be noted that the existing general discount will continue to be available for payments by cheque, cash and BACS transfer.
  2. Initially a simple percentage surcharge to cover the extra postage costs associated with overseas orders will apply. This is because we are advised that the PayPal system will not allow us to make different charges for different destinations as we currently do for BACS, cheque and cash payments. We therefore have to use some form of averaging to cover these extra postage costs. The extra costs vary markedly depending on destination and order size, but we think that a simple percentage surcharge is as good a way as any of covering these costs, at least until we have had the opportunity to assess the characteristics of PayPal orders from overseas. The initial surcharge will be 30%, based on the extra costs actually incurred for overseas orders in the recent past. Again, the existing arrangements for charging overseas postage costs will remain in force for payments made by BACS, cheques or cash.

Both of these decisions will be reviewed, and if necessary altered, in the light of experience.

In the meantime we welcome constructive comments and suggestions from customers.

JOHN COUPERTHWAITE
Chairman, CC Publications
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