Monday, March 7, 2016

Amazon in Southern India by Beryl Reichenberg

            What do you do when you want to send your books to a third-world country halfway around the world?
During my December trip to Southern India, I visited a local village school near Mysore. Usually on overseas trips, I bring copies of my children’s picture books to give away, but this time I left them home not knowing we would be visiting a local school.
Indian students in school yard

            The school’s one-room library was basic. There were few books, many of which were picture books even though the school taught children up to age 14. The principal explained that pupils learning to read English found picture books helpful regardless of their age. When I offered to send them some of my picture books, the staff was delighted and gave me the school’s address.
Picture books in school library

            How best to send my books to the school?  From previous experiences sending packages abroad, I knew that some foreign mail services were unreliable.  Looking at the school’s address again, I was puzzled by what all the words meant. Which word was the name of the school, the principal, etc.?  What was the string of numbers at the end, the school’s phone number, the principal’s number or maybe a zip code?
            Using regular mail also would be expensive.  In addition to the postage, the books had already been purchased at wholesale prices.  I decided to investigate other options.
I checked on Amazon, a source for all of my books, both published by Oak Tree Press and self-published and discovered they had an Indian outlet.  Amazon India did indeed carry some but not all of my books. They listed a wide variety of prices. Some books retailed $30, while others were under $10. Their price did not seem to correspond to the prices in the U.S. An added benefit by using Amazon India was there was free shipping. This option would cost less than my original estimate of sending wholesale priced books via regular mail.
Using Amazon might also guarantee delivery. If the address were wrong, I’d be alerted. The last thing I wanted was to have my package of books forgotten in some post office warehouse somewhere in India or returned to me as undeliverable. I took the added precaution of emailing my Indian tour guide that the books were ordered, so she could alert the school.
On December 30, I ordered seven books, some published by Oak Tree Press and some self-published. I crossed my fingers that I had the right address. There were two different Indian companies handling the books for Amazon. Each having their own inventory so I was dealing with two separate orders and companies. It was hard to tell how long the order might take to arrive. I wasn’t sure if the books would be shipped from the U.S. to the distribution companies in India or whether a PDF file would be sent to an Indian printing house.
One of the Oak Tree Press books I ordered

On January 18, I received an email from Amazon India that the books were on their way to the school from New Delhi.  I had a tracking number with a possible delivery date, January 30. Every couple of days I checked the tracking number to see how the delivery was progressing. Even after January 30, I still received the same delivery estimate with assurances that the packages still were on their way.
I envisioned the delivery van winding its way across the unpaved roads of India’s interior searching for a tiny school in some obscure village.  As long as there was no word from Amazon India that they couldn’t find the address, I felt confident.
Then came the message, “Oops. It’s not going to be delivered by January 30 but on February 20.“   To my relief on February 20, I received a message that the package had been delivered on the first of February.
The moral: Don’t always believe messages coming from the tracking service.  They can be incorrect.  Do have faith in Amazon. They deliver!


Carolyn Niethammer said...

What a great story and helpful information for anyone wanting to send their own books as a gift to a foreign country. I, took have visited a rural school in India and you really want to help. On the day I visited it was unusually chilly and most of the kids had no sweaters and few books. The school was so modest but the children were charming and very polite and eager to learn.

Shalanna said...

How lovely of you to care about rural India and actually do something about it! Literacy is such an important cause for us to support.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I was surprised at how polite the children were too. When I entered one school room, the whole class stood up. That wouldn't happen in the US. I've been to schools in Africa, Burma, Peru and other countries. The children are so excited to see us and we always have a grand time, talking with individual students and visiting. Sometimes the students sing us a song in English or the school has us give a talk.In Burma, we were asked to give an English lesson and In Peru, we sat with the students and they showed us their school work. The two little girls I sat with asked me to write to them which I did. These school visits are always the highlight of my trip. I bet Carolyn you felt the same way. It makes the trip and visiting another culture more real.

Jeff Zwagerman said...

What a great story. Thanks for sharing.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Oh, how wonderful! The books are darling, I'm sure they loved them.

Beryl Reichenberg said...

I hope so, Marilyn. But it is the human to human connection that is so powerful. Kids around the world are so accepting. It's to bad that adults can't be the same. Maybe that is why we are all authors - making a connection through our stories with others, whatever the age range.