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  • http://www.BookIndustryBailout.ca Bruce Batchelor

    Hi Becky -
    Thanks for reporting on this scandal in the book industry. Consumer pressure is clearly required to get publisher and booksellers to change their bizarre, almost criminal practices.
    It is hard to comprehend the total environmental impact caused by over-printing over ONE BILLION books that are discarded each year. So what if the books are printed on FSC-certified paper; the whole industry is mad to be over-printing on this scale.
    Thanks only to the Facebook group’s pressure Borders has suddenly instructed all its stores to recycle unsold books, rather than sending all that paper to the landfill. Why weren’t they doing this BEFORE being pressured? Every schoolkid knows to recycle paper. Where is Borders’ and Barnes & Noble’s corporate social responsibility? We need to pressure them to stop over-ordering books if they can’t donate the unsold ones. Best if the bookstores stop ordering on consignment, so they assume responsibility for their purchasing decisions, rather than blaming publishers.
    It seems this industry isn’t going to do anything that makes financial or environmental sense without being held accountable by consumers. Happily, that consumer pressure is growing. Thanks for publicizing the Facebook campaign at http://www.donatenotdumpster.org.
    thanks, cheers, Bruce

    • Becky Striepe

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Bruce! That’s an interesting solution – getting the bookstores to purchase books outright and making them responsible for the inventory. Over-ordering on that scale is so irresponsible!

  • Greg Smith

    Becky,

    The same agreements that Borders follows with publishers are often the same with other suppliers. Indeed, there may be no publisher to blame but that does not mean there isn’t an entity to blame. They could not donate those items because, technically, they didn’t own them and could not do so without the owners permission.

    I find this entire campaign – particularly the Facebook campaign – downright deceptive. Many of us have been banned and blocked on that Facebook page for challenging outright deceptions, lies, and misinformation there. Extremely ironic given that we are talking about books.

    I’ve noticed some of the organizers of this movement know a thing or two about publishing and bookselling and they routinely leave out information that is not convenient to their arguments. The notion that bookstores over order books is laughable and uninformed. No bookstore knows how many copies of a new title they are going to sell. Now, if I order 10,000 copies of Ulysses by Joyce for a single store then, yes, that is over ordering and I guarantee you there isn’t a single bookstore in the country engaging in this type of behavior.

    What is indeed true is that publishers print far more books than they need. But that is hardly scandalous.

    I do not support this campaign because it persists in riling up the uninformed with half-truths and deceptions with lazy feel good activism that is completely unrealistic with regards to the economics of book publishing in this country. Yes, every schoolkid knows to recycle paper (and publishers recycle plenty, another deception) but what I and many others who have worked in bookselling and publishing know is that neither they nor there parents buy as many books as people tend to think.

    If this movement ever gets honest and decides to be truthful about the economics of publishing then, I’ll certainly support it. Sadly, I’m not expecting that to happen.

  • http://www.BookIndustryBailout.ca Bruce Batchelor

    Hi Greg – Thanks for commenting. Obviously I disagree with your assessment.

    But surely you agree that printing ONE BILLION more books every year than are sold is not a particularly clever action?

    If other retailers (selling grocery produce or hardware or anything else) can order on a “firm sales” basis, why can’t booksellers? I don’t think booksellers are dumber than other retailers. Surely booksellers have the competence to be responsible for their buying decisions, and sell off “in place” anything that is surplus, like other merchants do.

    The CEO of Barnes & Noble is on record as saying he wants this wasteful practice to change. Yet publishers claim that it is the retailers who are blocking a change. Which is it?

    Consumer pressure is having an impact. We’ve already seen Border take steps. How about adding your voice to the thousands who are emailing to the CEOs of the largest publishing companies AND the CEOs of the largest bookstore chains? They need to meet and fix this nonsense.

    If you have “truthful” information about the economics of publishing that contradicts what the Facebook group is showing, a good start would be to post it. That would be helpful. If you can demonstrate that the scale of waste is tiny and/or that there are no alternatives, your arguments would be strong.

    By the way, a bit of checking around the Internet would provide you with some very sad, first-hand accounts of smaller publishers who have gone broke or been seriously impacted by a large chain ordering thousands more books than required and sending them all back – in some cases still on the original skids, never having put any of them of the shelves. Perhaps you are a bookstore buyer; if so, what was your own worst buy?

    Let’s hope some attention shone on this dark secret will help out booksellers and publishers – and the planet.

    thanks, cheers,
    Bruce

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