Book return system being questioned

Worried about their industry's carbon footprint, publishers in Britain are considering tossing the sale-or-return system by which they have traditionally supplied bookstores with books and going to a practice of firm sale, at least with older titles.

"Can we really justify sending books all over the country, only to send them back on the same journey to be destroyed?" Victoria Barnsley, CEO of HarperCollins UK, recently asked in the trade journal The Bookseller.

Her counterpart at Hachette UK, Tim Hely Hutchinson, agrees. "It's pretty silly to send backlist shuttling back and forth - it's a waste of time, money and resources."


It is not as if those Royal Mail trucks are going by the bookstores every day anyway. That is the ticket, stop a long established practice that puts the onus of unsold books on the publishers that churn them out. Transfer that burden to the retailer, make it a firm order rather than a consignment.

A wonderful idea, that should put some of those smaller bookshops out of business and give the larger and online booksellers who can purchase in larger quantity and still have some leverage with the publishers regarding returns due to their volume a warm fuzzy feeling.

I wonder how the folks at 84 Charing Cross Road feel about this, perhaps a bit differently than the fine group at

Oh, but think of global warming, save the earth by not accepting returns of unsold volumes.

Jeezus are people such sheep that they will buy that crap?