Blog Archive

Monday 20 May 2013

Pos Malaysia's New International Postal Rates - Updated

Pos Malaysia's 
New International Postage Rates:
An Attempt to Explain Which May Confuse

I was slightly puzzled when I was charged RM60 to send a 0.5kg grm paperback by airmail to Europe last week. The observant and helpful postal assistant spotted me and pressed into my palm a booklet setting out new international rates that have just come into force. Don't worry, Malaysian residents, domestic rates have not changed - yet. All books bought from The Penang Bookshelf are still posted free of charge to addresses within Malaysia.

I've spent most of my waking hours since then trying to understand the rates and to re-jig The Penang Bookshelf's international selling sites to reflect them. What follows may rightly be extremely boring to most, but I hope will be helpful to some.

The two most important changes are that a) all rates start at 1kg and b) cheap surface mail has disappeared. 
So although it now costs SG$18 to send a 0.5kg book to Singapore, two books of the same weight would cost the same price, i.e. still a total of $18. Whereas 2kg of books to Singapore will cost $21 compared to $34 under the old rates. Similar savings exist in posting to other countires in Southeast Asia. 

Most of The Penang Bookshelf's overseas customers are in Australia. Here a 0.5kg book will cost AU$22 to post, but because the first step in the postage rates is now 1kg, again two or more books under 1kg will also cost $22 in total. That compares with $15 for 1kg under the old rates, so there's a 50% increase there. 2 kg will cost $31 compared with $27 under the old system, so the increase is softened, the more books you buy. However it's still possible to send books by surface mail to Australia where the rates range from $17 for 1kg, $20 up 1.5kg and $22 for 2kg, Unfortunately New Zealand customers lose out here. Theirs is one of the many strange cases where surface mail is either the same as or more expensive than airmail, but the airmail rates are the same as in the case of Australia.

Moving over to Europe now, the scene is more foggy. The UK is another case where surface mail is pretty well the same price as airmail, so to post by airmail any books weighing under 1 kg will now cost £16 while a 2kg parcel would cost £22. This compares with £13 for 1kg under the old rates and £24 for 2kg. So actually a bigger bundle of books is cheaper to send now than it was before.

Whereas under the old system all of Europe was subjected to one rate, now, for some reason, Pos Malaysia's decided to pick and choose when it comes to surface mail. However let's deal with air mail first. For airmail the situation for all of Europe is the same as before. It's in the same band as the UK so that  anything up to 1kg is 19 Euros to post rising to 26 Euros when the package weighs between 1.5 and 2kg. Under the old system it was 16 Euros for 1kg and 29 Euros for a 2kg packet. So, as with the case of the UK, it's cheaper now than before to send heavier parcels by airmail.

Whereas airmail to the UK is now the cheapest option, that's not so with the rest of Europe. Nevertheless surprisingly surface mail rates are not uniform as they were before. For some reason Austria, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, which are landlocked, and Denmark and Ireland, to which there can't really be many, if any, direct shipping routes from Malaysia, are singled out for special treatment by being allocated to the same band as Australia, Cambodia and Macao. Books sent surface mailweighing up to 1kg will cost 13 Euros to post, those weighing up to 1.5kg will cost 16 Euros and a 2kg package would cost 17 Euros in postage.

The next most expensive band includes France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and a few other countries where The Penang Bookshelf doesn't yet have customers. Here for surface mail, books weighing up to 1kg will cost 15 Euros in postage, a parcel below 1.5kg will cost 17 Euros and a below 2kg will cost 19 Euros. Believe it or not there's yet another European surface mail band which includes countries like Finland, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland where the three rates are the same as or more expensive than air mail, whose rates I've mentioned above.

Under the old rates a 1kg parcel would have cost 9 Euros by sea mail and a 2kg parcel 14 Euros. So, where surface mail is an option, the rates have increased as has happened for other parts of the world.

North American customers are the biggest winners in the new set up. Of course like anyone else they can't benefit from the cheaper rates that used to exist for parcels under 1kg, but in the present scheme of things they should be smiling. Airmail packages up to 1kg now cost CA/US$24, up to 1.5kg $28 and a bundle under 2kg will cost $34 for posting by airmail. This compares with rates of $27, $41 and $50 respectively under the old system. Again surface mail rates to North America are either the same or more expensive than the airmail rates. The only country in the whole of the Americas which has the benefit of reasonable sea mail rates is Mexico which for some reason falls into the same band as Australia, Austria, Ireland and Japan.

In terms of The Penang Bookshelf's charging policies, this means that any international postage rates shown on descriptions of some books are no longer relevant. It also means that any offers to send parcels over 2kg free by surface mail to any part of the world are no longer in effect. 

If I was a journalist, I'd be banging on the door of Pos Malaysia to try and get an explanation for some of these anomalies and many more that don't concern The Penang Bookshelf's customers. Of course there's no guarantee that any Pos Malaysia official would be gracious enough open the door to me!

If you are a customer or potential customer of The Penang Bookshelf and have any further questions, I'll do my best to answer them.   

An Update

Of course, the rates announced at the beginning of May, did produce a backlash and so, fairly quietly, Pos Malaysia had a bit of a climbdown a couple of weeks later.

All the confusing grouping of countries into postal zones are still there. So you can still send packages by surface mail to Ireland and to Mexico more cheaply that you can to, say, the United Kingdom or the United States. However instead of making the minmum weight for airmail 1kg, someone has come to the realisation that many parcels sent by air mail are a bit lighter. So there are now rates for 250 gr, 500 gr, 1kg and 1.5 kg as well. Phew! 

Now that's settled down, I thought it might be interesting to compare the new rates to a group of countries to which The Penang Bookshelf posts most freqently. These are airmail rates expressed in US dollars with the pre-change rates in brackets.

Area To 0.25kg To 0.5kg To 1kg To 1.5 kg To 2kg
Australasia $9(7) $13(10) $21(15) $25(21) $30(26)
Europe $10(7) $17(12) $24(17) $27(28) $34(35)
Americas $10(11) $17(15) $24(27) $27(41) $34(50)
Singapore $7(7) $10(10) $14(14) $16(20) $17(26)

In fact the changes aren't as terrifying as the hullabaloo makes out. Posting by airmail to Australasia is a bit more expensive, to Europe it's the same below 1kg, to the Americas it's cheaper to post more than 1kg and the rates over 1kg have been reduced to Singapore as well.

Surface mail under 2kg still remains a cheaper option for Australia, but not New Zealand and for most mainland European countries.


Sunday 12 May 2013

A Schizophrenic Newsletter

The Penang Bookshelf
A Schizophrenic Newsletter

From The Penang Bookshelf
Dear Friend

Two Faced?  Yes, That's Me 
I've always been  a closet crazy mixed up oaf, a two faced squirmer. So running The Penang Bookshelf's a breeze, having to serve the needs of customers both within and outside Malaysia. With The Penang Bookshelf's main website in USD, until now you could only buy in Malaysian Ringgit through eBay or bother yourself by dealing with me direct. So using consumer friendliness to mask my unbridled greed, I've now set up another website where The Penang
Bookshelf's prices are in ringgit. This is now the sixth website on which The Penang Bookshelf's stock is available. Ideally I would have preferred  one site where customers could choose their currency,but I am yet to find an internet geek who can set this up for me. This means in future all links to books will direct you to, but the (PB) that follows the link itself contains a link to the same book on I hope you understand it better than I do.


A reflection of The Penang Bookshelf's confused market is its Bestseller List (PB) which is now being constantly updated. Top of the Pops so far this year is the regularly featured.Malayan Spymaster (PB). Its position helped no doubt by a visit to Penang recently by the author's son. However the book has always sold well on the internet too.
There are some books such as The Penang Notebook (PB) which never sell on the internet. There are others like Orang Macam Kita (PB), Kongsi Gelap Melayu (PB) and Sacred Ikat (PB) that never sell when they get a public outing.

Of course The Penang Bookshelf sells as many out of print books as new ones, but the former are unlikely to feature much in the list as they're seldom sold in multiple titles. There is one exception, though - Penang Past and Present (PB).

Meet the Author of New World War II Saga

The list is likely to greet a new entrant in the coming week, Boyd Anderson's Amber Road (PB), which has just been published in Australia and Singapore. He's been entertaining audiences in both countries since publication. He'll be giving a talk on the book, acclaimed for its atmospheric detail, at Seven Terraces Stewart Lane George Town Penang on Tuesday 14th May at 9.30 a.m. You can book a place by emailing Michelle Grimsley of Sprial Synergy or phoning her on 016-457-0221. There are more details about the book and the event on The Penang Bookshelf Blog. If you can't attend and would like a signed copy of the book, just let me know.

A Third Anniversary Approaches
At the end of this month The Penang Bookshelf will be celebrating the third anniversary of when it first appeared on a market stall in Penang. In that time it's managed to build up the broadest selection of books about Malaysia for sale on the internet. Where do we go next? Suggestions for improvements and direction are always welcome.

It's taken on a life of its own and I'm always running to catch up. Thanks to all of you for your support and patience. It's been refreshing and inspiring, really!

With best wishes and thanks,
William Knox
The Penang Bookshelf     

News Snippets 

So Long, Mitt! 

Readers of the last newsletter will remember that the United States' loss last November was The Penang Bookshelf's gain (sic.) He gave me some bullsh*t story about having an offer from academia that he couldn't refuse. While I was trying to construct a plausible sentence that included both his name and any word that signified higher learning, he made a good show of convincing me by dumping this pile of books on my lap. Apparently they were cluttering his new office.Oh yeah!

Mitt's new career - he says. 
I shouldn't maliign the guy too much as they're quite an interesting selection on a wide range of topics on education, history and politics in Southeast Asia. They're all (more than 200 of them) on offer at the moment. Some are rare. If you can convince me you can find them cheaper anywhere else, there's a good chance I'll reduce the prices further. I wished him well, hoping that would be the last I saw of him.

 I was to be disappointed. In the early hours of 6th May I received a distraught phone call from the guy
Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya (PB).
asking for a lift home. Where was he? I should have guessed. He was in Sungai Petani, Kedah. I found him in a kedai kopi (coffee shop) weeping copiously over this book.  Apparently the temptations of Malaysia's recent general election had been too much for him. He had managed to talk himself into being a 'Strategic Advisor' for the Opposition in the state. The Government promptly regained the state from the Opposition. Apparently Mitt's sponsoring of a statewide tour of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir wasn't the success he had hoped. That figures. His new disgruntled employers were  Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) . Anyway he sold me the book to pay for his flight home. There's a fictional account of the purchase in The Penang Bookshelf Blog.  

A Quick Flit    

A happy family event means that I'll be making a quick dash to the UK and back in the first week of June. So if there are any UK/European customers who want a book without having to suffer The 
White Man Returns (PB) 
Penang Bookshelf's budget breaking airmail charges, just let me know. I should be able to post books from London for the equivalent of  surface mail charges from Penang. Of course, for Malaysia customers, it should mean that there'll be another load of newly imported books on the site.  

Fiction boost 

An Introduction to Modern Malaysian Literature (PB).
Although no one ever buys the stuff, The Penang Bookshelf's now stocked with a whole lot of Malaysian fiction that seldom sees the light of day anywhere else.They're mainly from Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia
(ITBM) who specialise in translating Malay literature into other languages. You'll see their titles heavily represented in our new arrivals lists for April (PB) and May(PB). Let's hope that fiction sales increase as a result.

About The Penang Bookshelf
The Penang Bookshelf specialises in providing book lovers with a broad range of new and second-hand books, both fiction and non-fiction, primarily about Malaysia, but also about other parts of Asia as well. 

Independent Online Booksellers Association, Professional Member.


Also at: AbeBooks.,Ebay and at IOBA  

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Telephone: +60-12-972-6485 
Business Address:  Aquarius, 4-8-8 Jalan Low Yat, Batu Ferringhi, 11100, Penang. (The Penang Bookshelf's entire inventory is available for browsing. Please call to fix an appointment.)  
Mailing Address: 36, Cheeseman Road, 11600 Penang, Malaysia

Registered Business No: PG0282219-D

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Saturday 11 May 2013

Meet the Author of Amber Road, a Family Saga set in World War II Malaya and Singapore

Meet the Author
Boyd Anderson
14th May  

**Please note** The Penang Bookshelf now operates two websites, one for customers within Malaysia and the other for customers outside. You will therefore notice two links to any book. The first link at the book's name will take you to the website for customers in Malaysia. Each such link will be followed by (PB) which will is a link to the same book on the website for customers outside Malaysia.

This week Penang  will be welcoming another one of The Penang Bookshelf's customers, Boyd Anderson, who's also an author. Amber Road is his fourth novel  and has just been published by Monsoon Books of Singapore. It's performing strongly in the Singapore bookshops' best seller lists.

Although now based in Sydney, Boyd Anderson's no stranger to Penang as his wife is the great-great granddaughter of Chung Keng Quee, better known as a Kapitan Cina in the late 19th century. Chung's former home in Church Street,Penang is now open to the public as the Pinang Perankan Mansion (PB) 

Boyd Anderson will be giving a talk at Seven Terraces, Stewart Lane, George Town. Penang from 9.30 to 11.30 am on Tuesday, 14 May. As well as being a novelist, he's an entertaining speaker, who's had enthusiastic audiences in Sydney and Singapore. The experiences of civilians caught up in World War II in Malaya has been his special area of interest for several years. This novel, with well researched atmospheric detail, is the result of that interest. If you'd like to attend please contact the organiser, Michelle Grimsley of Spiral Synergy  by email or phone her on 016-457-0221. There is a RM35 charge which includes coffee/tea and kuih. 

The Penang Bookshelf  will be selling copies of Amber Road at the event. If you can't attend and would like to buy an author signed copy of the book, please email William Knox as soon as possible. There will be no extra charge for this.

More About Amber Road
The Publisher's Synopsis

Nineteen year-old Victoria Khoo, the lithe daughter of a wealthy family of Straits Chinese, lives in luxury on the rambling ‘Homestead’ in colonial Singapore. Her carefree days are spent fantasising about a future with Sebastian Boustead, scion of the great British merchant family. Her sole ambition is to marry Sebastian and become mistress of the Boustead’s Angsana Lodge. Secure in the invincibility of ‘Fortress Singapore’, she fails to see the conflict such a union would create, or the upheaval that looms over the horizon for the faithful British subjects of Malaya and the island of Singapore.

As Malaya falls to the Japanese and Singapore abruptly surrenders and the inhabitants of both countries are deserted by Britain, Victoria is shunned by Sebastian, who declares his intention to marry the pretty Elizabeth Nightingale. Victoria is forced to protect both her family and her rival, Elizabeth, from the cruelty of the Japanese occupation, and soon finds herself drawn into a dangerous triangle.

Can she reclaim her destiny with Sebastian, or should she welcome the attentions of the charming Joe Spencer, mysterious Australian leader of a resistance force? With intrigue, romance and suspense, Amber Road tells an epic story of one woman’s indomitable spirit, and how she, like Asia itself, was so swiftly transformed by World War II.

About the Author
Boyd Anderson is the author of “Ludo,”, “Errol, Fidel and the Cuban Rebel Girls” and co-author of “Children of the Dust”. He lives in Sydney, but prefers weddings in Singapore and eating in Penang.

Excerpts from Reviews

Next Magazine, Singapore"a thoroughly enjoyable, rollicking read with beautiful heroine, dashing hero - both satisfyingly flawed - with enough tension to keep readers riveted."
AsianBooksBlog: "a big, generous romance that blends derring-do adventure, suspense, and tragedy. It has characters you’ll care about, and it conveys both a compelling sense of place, and of period."
Historical Novel Society: "the rich detail on life in Singapore and Malaya under Japanese occupation and the growing threat of Communism will reward readers"
More reviews, but beware of spoilers, if you don't want to know too much about the plot. 

And finally an interview with the author. The book is also published by Random House Australia