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October 16, 2014

Royal Mail celebrates Booker winner with innovative new postmark

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For two days, every British mail-receiving person will see this on his or her envelope.

For two days, every British mail-receiving person will see this on his or her envelope.

Disruption! Everyone loves it, which makes sense because it’s a process with absolutely no downsides. Disruption is always, to paraphrase Justin Taylor, the best thing ever. But what happens when an entity self-disrupts? When it innovates itself so radically that it risks undermining its very essence?

Today we will find out the answer. That’s because the Royal Mail, the United Kingdom’s 498-year old postal service company, has decided to boldly go where no postal service has gone and . . . promote Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan with a special postmark! Yes, it’s true! From the Royal Mail’s press release:

Royal Mail’s postmark will appear on millions of items of mail delivered nationwide from tomorrow [Thursday, October 16th] to Saturday. It will say “Congratulations to Richard Flanagan, winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.”

Andrew Hammond from Royal Mail, said: “We’re delighted to be recognising Richard Flanagan’s fantastic achievement in winning the 2014 Man Booker Prize with one of our special postmarks.

“We’re really pleased to share his success in winning this renowned literary award with a postmark that will be delivered to addresses nationwide.”

This kind of bold, timely, responsive, ripped-from-the-headlines strategic thinking would be impressive in anyone’s hands, but it’s that much more striking coming from a company in a field not usually known for transformative innovation. (Though it’s not as if the Royal Mail hasn’t self-disrupted before—three years ago, James Meek wrote 9,361 brilliant words on the subject in the London Review of Books.)

All jokes about disruption and postal old-fashionedness aside, this is a very cool initiative, and we can only hope that the United States Postal Service follows suit. To start the USPS off right, here are some suggestions. From our lips to your ears, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe!

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Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.

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