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Who Knew? Eliminating Returns Reduces The Book Business’s Carbon Footprint

In 2005, 31% of the roughly 1.5 billion books printed in the US were returned to publishers. Guess what: that not only doesn’t make sense for anyone’s bottom line — people don’t buy more books because they see big luxuriant stacks of books on offer, it seems!– it’s bad for the environment!

As is buying and selling paper-stacks at all, of course, but let’s not think about that for the moment. In an article about Bob Miller‘s new HarperCollins “studio’s” no-returns policy, sustainable-living publisher Margo Baldwin explains the rationale behind the no-returns deal she has struck with 30 bookstores: “In this age of global warming it’s insane to be shipping books back and forth across the country for no good reason. It’s just a waste of energy and, not only that, it still encourages the overproduction of books — many of which end up in landfills.”

So will the entire book industry change the way it does business based on these concerns? Maybe not: “‘It would require Random House or HarperCollins to develop an entirely new business model,’ said [Jim] Milliot of Publishers Weekly. ‘And that is not going to happen.’”

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