LIND Publishing Part 2

Dreary economic reports are hard to wish away since neither I nor anyone else knows how to fix things. All we can do is report to ourselves how tough things are. The sky-is-falling articles (Here’s 1.) about the publishing industry, however, wear a little thin since everyone knows what needs to be fixed.

Among other things: returns need to stop.

What are returns? At some point in the Great Depression (hm…), book publishers tried to encourage bookstores to buy books by telling them that they could return anything they didn’t sell. So now, a bookstore orders whatever the hell it wants. The publisher delivers it. The bookstore sells or does not sell it, and then they ship them back and the publisher pays them and then recycles the books they just made. A really great description of the system is here.

Note, first of all, that this article is three years old. Even three years ago the head of Barnes and Nobles was saying “Any rational business person looking at this practice would think the industry has gone mad.”

No shit! Shipping stuff costs money. Printing things that aren’t going to sell costs money. Dude, we got these computer things, I’m telling you, we can extrapolate from 1% of election returns who our president will be, but apparently we can’t extrapolate AT ALL if a book will sell. Pathetic.

Isn’t anyone doing anything about this?

Well, according to the article in the very first link up there, one of the reasons Amazon is doing so well is that they have a very low rate of returns. Maybe because they understand how to operate a distrubution network better or maybe because they know their customers better or maybe both, but they don’t buy many books from publishers they don’t need.

And HarperStudio has already decided it’s not playing the old game. I think this is awesome. I say this not only because I want HarperStudio to link to my blog and publish my book and be my friend, but also because I think returns are dumb.

Witness, if you read that one article I linked to, you’ll find something interesting. According to the author, publishers are struggling because they don’t know how to find books that sell well (they don’t know what people want)(There’s tons of corroboration for that out in the wide world of lit blogs, if you care for more sources). BUT publishers won’t change the return system for reasons like: “You don’t want to create a discount atmosphere,” (so now they DO know what customers will do.)

Maybe publishers should STOP BLAMING THE CUSTOMER!


LIND Publishing would not accept returns. In fact, LIND Publishing would call an industry-wide meeting in which everyone would reorganize the industry to be more effiecient and make more money. Since we’re giving me a publishing company, I don’t see why I can’t also dream myself the industry connections and power to enact this kind of change.

Oh, and don’t tell me that making big changes like axing returns would cause loss of revenue and loss of jobs, because that’s what’s going on anyway.