COVID-19 could’ve closed the book on Danny Caine’s entrepreneurial journey, the literature lover said, but while the pandemic rages, the U.S. Postal Service is keeping him moving to the next chapter.
As a small business owner, his story is like many across the country, said Caine, owner and operator of Raven Book Store in Lawrence.
“If us or any other bookstore is going to have a chance of surviving longer, we need to have a functioning Postal Service,” he said, referencing new USPS policies that have already slowed mail delivery. “If the USPS is cut, privatized or not functioning properly, it is certain doom for many small businesses — record stores, art galleries, bookstores.”
Proponents of changing the postal service’s business operations argue the efforts are critical to making the agency more sustainable in the long run. Many critics contend the adjustments — already causing delays — are part of an intentional, partisan campaign to shake Americans’ faith in mail-in voting.
Passionate about advocating for support and funding to the postal service, Caine spent a weekend crafting a zine, “Save the USPS: A Small Business’s Love Letter to An Essential American Institution.” The 16-page booklet covers the struggles facing the USPS, why it is a crucial service and how everyday citizens can prevent future cuts to the postal service.
Click here to shop Raven Book Store — open for curbside pickup from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., delivery within Lawrence and USPS shipping.
One of the biggest takeaways from the zine: an interview with a postal worker, who — speaking anonymously — was candid about experiences at the government agency, which has been grabbing headlines for the past month, Caine said.
“A really compelling line from that interview is, ‘The USPS is not broken and never has been,’” he recalled. “And that’s from the inside. That’s from someone who is doing the work every day.”
Although Caine’s initial release date for the zine was set for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, he said, he believed the issue was too crucial to wait, and has already started to send out copies.
The zine retails for $3, with $1 of every purchase going to buying stamps from the USPS that the Raven plans to distribute for free.
Click here to order a copy of Caine’s zine, “Save the USPS: A Small Business’s Love Letter to An Essential American Institution.”
Along with the booklet, Caine and Raven Book Store organized an Aug. 25 rally in Lawrence to mark the Nationwide Day of Action organized by the American Postal Workers Union. Kansas-based author and journalist Sarah Smarsh joined Caine in speaking at the event.
The @APWUnational has three demands, which you should prolly call your senators to talk about:
➡️ $25 billion in support for USPS
➡️ Reverse mail slowdown policies
➡️ Trustworthy mail voting pic.twitter.com/8YLVRMh3Lj
— Raven Book Store #SaveTheUSPS ✉️ (@ravenbookstore) August 25, 2020
“I fear that an attack on the Postal Service is an attack on the ability of a small business to make it in America,” Caine said. “So that’s why we’re fighting hard to stand up for it.”
Amazon’s oldest competitors
Showing up for causes that both the Lawrence community and Raven Book Store think need attention is an important part of community-building, Caine said. An independent bookstore’s ability to organize is a unique service, and one that competitors like Amazon — which began in 1994 as a disruptive online book seller — can’t offer, he said.
Through planning events, programming and partnerships, a shop like Raven is able to build relationships with community members who would rather buy local — even though it is more expensive, Caine said.
“The harm in Amazon is that they’re charging books for under retail price,” he explained. “Say you look up a best-selling, hardcover book. Amazon may be selling that for $9, whereas we need to sell it at $26 in order to meet our margins. Because when we buy it from the publisher, we’re giving the publisher $14.
“So for us to sell that book for $9 would be to give the book to the customer for free, and also open the cash register and hand them $5.”
Because of their lost-cost shipping, the USPS is a major component when it comes to staying in business against Amazon, Caine said.
“If [Raven Book Store] has any chance in convincing people to support us instead of Amazon, we can’t be charging $15 for shipping, which is what it would cost to afford FedEx or UPS,” he noted. “But with the USPS, we can send a hardcover for $2.50.”
All of Raven Book Store’s decisions come with the awareness that Amazon is undercutting them on every price, he said.
Caine previously published a 28-page zine on why consumers should avoid Amazon and opt to buy local. Since November 2019, more than 10,000 copies of “How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future” have been sold, he said.
Click here to check out Caine’s zine, “How to Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight for Local Economics, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores, and a People-Powered Future.”
“An independent bookstore’s health is really the health of its artistic community,” Caine said. “If you’ve got a community that’s valuing their independent bookstore, then that is a community that values the arts.”