August 5, 2014

Books Being Destroyed

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

In reading information about printing a few weeks ago, I ran across this article that I felt authors would find quite interesting. The title was: WHAT HAPPENS TO UNSOLD PRINT BOOKS?

On one trip to a printer for a press inspection about twenty years ago, I was surprised to see a fabric sided basket truck (like a hospital laundry bin) full of books with no covers. It was actually in the sample room, and I was surprised that all the covers had been torn off the books.

When I asked what the books were for, I learned that unused overage had to be destroyed, and in addition to keeping a record of the books destroyed (one cover per book), this rendered the books unsalable. While this seemed a bit brutal to me at the time, I came to understand that customers who had purchased the books in stores would not be happy to learn that other people were getting their copies for free. Hence, it was actually fair for the printer to deface and discard unused books.

When the books have been sent to a brick and mortar bookstore, or for that matter to a fulfillment center for an online store such as Amazon, it is also cheaper for the store to not return any unused books to the publisher but rather to tear the covers off and return them for reimbursement (i.e., covers cost less to ship than complete books).

In either case, the goal is to keep track of any unsold books and make sure they don't get distributed for free.

The moral of the story? Many, many books end up unread, in landfills, and while understandable, it's still a shame. So if you're involved in publishing and have influence over the copy count for a press run, be mindful of how many books you will really need—as best you can, given that it's impossible to accurately predict future sales. (Printing Industry Exchange…Steve Waxman)

While it is true we can’t predict future sales…we can be mindful of how many books we have printed on a run.

As a person, I understand the reasoning on the above. But it made me wonder how authors would feel to know their book was taken off a bookshelf in a bookstore/distributor, and the cover ripped off, and the pages destroyed.  After all that is the author’s “baby”. They worked hard on this creation, pouring their hearts, time and talent into it. Then to see this done or know that it is done to any of theirs could be difficult.

As an author, do you have thoughts about this process? Are there other things that can be done besides ripping covers off and destroying the guts of the book?

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