I’m sure you’re familiar with the words found inside many a paperback:
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Well, that’s because many books are sent to bookstores on consignment from publishers. For mass market paperbacks, unsold ones are cheaper to destroy than to store, or discount and remainder. As a booklover, this is incredibly painful to participate in.
Most hardcover books and trade paperbacks are sent back, discounted, and redistributed. But the ones that make me really sad are the ones that have their covers stripped and are recycled. The big bookstore chains are usually the worst offenders, returning up to 30% of the books they receive. Thankfully some of them are starting to create more enlightened policies, like Indigo’s policy of donating unsold books to literacy programs. Sadly, what is done with consignment books is up to the publishers, so if the publisher wants the bookstore to light them on fire and roast marshmallows, they pretty much have to (that was an exaggeration… mostly).
This is also sad to see because I hate to think about a new author who was so excited to get published, and then not sell any books. Or the classic that just isn’t selling any more. Or the book I loved as a child, but the author died and so the publisher doesn’t want to market it anymore. I end up buying returns to “rescue” them. What can I say, I’m a sucker.
That’s one reason why I’m in favour of e-books, where they can hang around forever, don’t take up landfill space if you delete them, and the most obscure take up so little space that there’s no reason for the seller not to keep them.
Who knew being a bookseller was such an emotionally taxing job, even without the customer interaction.
Happy <sniff> reading.