May... a time for things to blossom... which includes PBS. We hope to have the new site ready soon. It will be (if we do say so ourselves) a marvel. So many of the features you have asked us for have been implemented, and we are working on many others. The new site will be easier to use, feature-packed, and just darned pretty to look at! You should expect the new site to go live this month, barring unforeseen circumstances (or our untimely demise for exhaustion).
With the site growing so fast and changing so much, we anticipate a need for more PBS Volunteers, especially Tour Guides. Our PBS Tour Guides are our club "ambassadors"—the first people that most new members encounter on the site. The new site will be easier to use than the current design, but still there's nothing like a helpful, friendly Tour Guide to give an idea of what PBS is all about. Tour Guides get little icons on their Forum sigs and PBS Profiles, and they also get access to a private Forum. To be a Tour Guide, you must have a PBS Nickname and have belonged to PBS for at least 4 months. There is also a little "quiz" involved to demonstrate basic working knowledge of the site—not too hard, we promise! If you are interested in joining this great group, contact Diane G. (icesk8tr), our Tour Guide Coordinator, or send us a message in the feedback area.
Don't forget to read about the upcoming Postal Rate increase in News, below...
We wish a very happy Mother's Day to all our Moms out there. And also to all of those that just feel like moms (overwhelmed and multitasking)! Hey, that makes us moms, too. :-)
Other things that bloom in May... USPS will raise the postal rates on May 14, 2007, so if you have books you have been hoarding, read them, post them and send them out now! The new Media Mail rate for a package under 1 lb (typical paperback) will be $2.13. The rate for a package between 1 and 2 lbs (typical hardcover) will be $2.57. That's a hike in price, true, but it's still a bargain. They've been losing money on Media Mail rate for a long time, so although it is painful, we understand. USPS is really amazing—their rate of package loss is really tiny, and they handle a mind-boggling amount of items every day. Remember that it will still be less expensive to send a package weighing under 6 ounces by First-Class rate. So if you have a postal scale, dust it off and check your package weights! The USPS fee for electronic DC will rise from 14 to 18 cents. So if you use PBS-DC, you will need to add 18 cents in postage to each package you send after May 14th. To read more about the rate increase you can find the Rate Case on the USPS website. The good news is that the PBS portion of the DC fee will NOT change: that will still be 27 cents.
The thorn in the rose... With the new postal rates, PBS will reluctantly have to change the cost of credits. Each credit will cost $3.45 beginning May 14, 2007. We hate to do it, but with the rise in postage it's unavoidable. The accountants crunched the numbers, and this is the least we can charge. It will be a less expensive option (as always) to send out books to earn credits, but if you need credits quick for a Wish List book, they are always purchasable in the Kiosk. And check out Box-O-Books if you want to swap books without using credits. The yearly Box-O-Books subscription fee of $8.00 pays itself back with your first few Box swaps—the postage savings for sending multiple books is even more apparent now! And don't forget the Book Bazaar Discussion Forum, where you will find "deals" galore.
PBS Store news...
Even Friend knows that a PBS Tote bag can carry anything and everything he needs! Thanks to Diane G. (icesk8tr) for the photo. Hello from the PBS Warehouse! We are amazed at how the BookMates fly out the door here, but I guess we shouldn't be. What better way to protect your book, keep your place, and enjoy hands-free reading than with a BookMate? We have received word from the manufacturer that some of their BookMates will snap from right-to-left instead of left-to-right. This was actually a production faux pas in the factory; although the instructions illustrate only the left-to-right functionality of the BookMates, some BookMates will arrive with a strap that crosses right-to-left. We confirmed to the BookMate folks that our members will have no trouble using their BookMates, be they righty straps or lefty straps. The direction of the strap closure impacts neither the functionality nor the beauty of a BookMate bookholder! And our members are a particularly intelligent breed...after all, you found and joined PBS, didn't you!
If you don't have a BookMate yet, see what all the fuss is about. Check out the PBS Store in the Kiosk.
PBS Chapter News:
Welcome to our new PBS Local Chapter Leader for Massachusetts, Lori G. (auntielala). She already organized a meet-up in late March for lunch and shopping at a book fair. And she sent in a photo!
In the picture, from left to right: Lynne D. (Lynne), Lynn D. (bears1), Diane M. (Onefinetabby), Trice D. (Trice), Jacquelyn O. (JJO), Laurie M. (badkitty) and Lori S. (shookus). Lori G. took the picture—maybe she'll be in the next one!
You can find out more about PBS Local Chapters--how to start one, how to join one, which ones are already in existence--in the red "sticky" topic at the top of the PBS Local Chapters Discussion Forum. You can get to this forum by clicking Discussion Forums in the left menu of any page on the site and scrolling down to click PBS Local Chapters in the list.
We would love more PBS pictures—you can send them to email@example.com and attach the photos in jpeg format. Please remember to get consent from any people included in photos to have the photos published before you send them in.
Dear R&R— Raising the price of credits?!?! You're killing me. What do credit prices have to do with postal rates? Credits don't really exist!—Irritated in Idaho
I know it seems odd, but actually credits are not completely virtual commodities. When the taxman and the lawyers come around each year, they look at the number of credits and the number of books swapped at PBS and there is always a discrepancy—because we give each new member 3 credits. Any credit that does not represent an actual book is assessed at a price based on postal rates. The taxmen assess us for all of these "invented" credits, and it costs real money! So while credits may seem virtual, they are very real to Uncle Sam, and therefore to us too. We hate to raise the price of credits, but we are forced to. We feel your pain, believe me. April 15th is a tough day every year. We continue to give the 3 start-up credits, though, because we understand how hard it is for a new member to believe how well PBS
works. Once you get a free book you are a believer. Some of our members have given back those free credits (and more!) after they have belonged for a while. We don't ask that anyone do that, but we are deeply touched and humbled by such generosity. We created this website as a fun idea for booklovers, and it has attracted the nicest people! We get letters telling us that the service is priceless to them. So many people depend on PBS now for their books—we hear from folks who live rurally and don't have access to bookstores, teachers struggling to provide books to their students, homeschooling parents whose kids go through books like wildfire, retired booklovers on fixed incomes. We would rather do anything than charge money for credits—but if we didn't, PBS would not be able to survive. I hope that those who buy credits (or Box-O-Books or Book Journal or anything in the PBS Store) realize that they are keeping the club going for everyone when they do. And those of you who don't visit the Kiosk are still giving to the club, every time you wrap up your nice book and send it off to its new home. You are all part of Team PBS, as much as those of us who program and administer the site. We never expected that PBS would take over our lives in this way, but our members inspire us every day to try to make the site better!
Dear R&R—What the heck is going on? I posted a book to my bookshelf and it went on there twice. I only have one copy! It's on a wish list and I can't make the extra request go away. –-Stymied in Saratoga
This double-posting sometimes happens when the server "hiccups", and sometimes if a member clicks "refresh" on her browser while the posting is in process—this can send the posting through multiple times. The best thing to do is to wait for the extra copy to be requested, and click "I cannot send" on the request. You can explain to the requestor what happened (there is a text box to send a message when you cancel). It may have happened to her too in the past--if so, she will understand. When you click "I cannot send" the extra copy will be removed from your bookshelf. It's annoying, I know, but it seems to be
part of having so much activity on the site—we keep our servers terribly busy, and sometimes they miss a step. They do so much so well (check out the Pulse of PBS to get an idea of how much) the vast majority of the time!
Dear R&R—I got an email telling me I have a request, but when I went to my account, there isn't any request there! What happened? --Empty-handed in Erie
Well, a few things could have happened.
- The requestor could have canceled the request before you responded (check your email—you should have a cancellation notification there).
- If the book was on a Wish List, and the first Wisher had it on auto-request, you would have gotten the email about the request; then, if the Wisher canceled and the book was passed along, all you will see when you get to your account page is a pending Wish List offer. We don't send you an email when this kind of cancellation happens. Not because we're trying to drive you crazy! We just want to limit the number of PBS emails in our members' inboxes.
- You also won't get a cancellation email if you canceled a request yourself by mistake. This sometimes happens, especially if it is a bulk (multiple-book) request. Members click "I can mail" too quickly, without checking the boxes on the request to indicate which books of those requested can be mailed. If you don't click the box beside each book on a bulk request, the system thinks you cannot mail that book. A window does come up asking if the number of books you are agreeing to send is correct, and you can go back and click the boxes if you missed some. However, some members click right past this "safety" measure and cancel all books in the request! Because of this, we have re-thought this design, and the new site will have all books in a bulk request "checked" by default--you will have to un-check the boxes next to books you can't send. This will be part of the new site design that we hope to roll out very soon. Until then, check your bulk request boxes (and double-check your checkmarks!), to make sure you are agreeing to send the correct number of books.
If a request is canceled by mistake by a sender, the books have to be reposted in order to be swapped. I am glad you brought this up, Em; it reminded us to change this in the new site design.
More than you could EVER guess... We can't wait until you see it!