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Thursday, 1 July 2021

The last ShortBox

A blog post! It's been a while...

I'm here to herald the news of ShortBox #13, coming to kickstarter later this month (5 freshly-published comics, a gorgeous A4 print, some sweets- the usual), but also news that this box will be our last box. 

There are a few reasons for this, the main ones being insane, ever-increasing international shipping prices, and the rising costs of Brexit. We've shipped worldwide from the outset, and have been lucky to build a network of readers that stretch across the globe. In fact, the bulk of our readership is internationally-based and shipping costs for them over the last 5 years have just climbed and climbed. To provide an example, international shipping on our last box cost £22 per box (that's the cost for shipping alone, not including any labour, packaging, materials or payment processing fees). The most I've previously charged for this was £14. 

The price of a ShortBox is £35: it's been that since we began and stayed £35 over the past 5 years. However, costs of ~everything~ have risen: a rise further compounded by Brexit. It affects us considerably as we always print our books, packaging, stickers, prints- whatever was needed- here in the UK to support local small businesses similar to ShortBox, and to maintain quality control and quick turnarounds. Keeping the box at £35 is simply no longer feasible.

Essentially, we've come to a point where growing costs mean we need to adjust the price of a box, and growing shipping costs mean we also need to charge accordingly for shipping. Sadly, I think this makes the box model no longer viable. Even if the box price were raised to £38 (as a minimum), for the vast majority of our readers, the shipping would be £22, bringing the total to £60 for a box. Although when broken down this still works out cheaper than if you were to buy and ship the 5 comics individually, it's still a large sum. The idea of ShortBox is that people trust that they're going to get a selection of comic books that are of value to them in some way. I think the more you start paying for something, the greater the expectation of receiving 'sure things' - work that fits what a person wants more closely. It becomes less of a space for interesting, inventive, fresh work. My instinct is that with the rising costs, people would prefer to choose individual books they want.

So, the kickstarter for ShortBox #13 later this month will be our final box. The price will remain £35. From 2022 forwards, we'll simply be publishing short and long comics individually, in the more traditional way. Scary and exciting!

It feels like the right thing to do: there's a sense of sadness, of course, but I think it's important to recognise when something is no longer working -for either us or readers- and to not detrimentally persist with it due to stubbornness or sentiment. It's a familiar refrain, but I had no idea I'd be doing this as a job, or even a year on when I started ShortBox, and it has evolved constantly (initially we were supposed to be a distro platform for mini-comics!), so changing and adapting has always been part of our DNA, which makes it easier to accept - on an emotional level, at least!

I'm incredibly grateful for all your support through this chapter of ShortBox, and hope you'll continue with us in the next. Thank you so much.

Zainab.