Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tell Apple: Don't partner with publishers or chains who won't stop trashing books

As Apple introduces its much-hyped "iSlate"(?) tablet, big publishers are salivating at the thought of new profits if it helps take e-books mainstream ("All five major publishers - Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, MacMillan and Hachette - are on the bookstore starting this afternoon." - CNET, Apple iPad tablet makes debut). Meanwhile, many of us who care about books are wondering what the digital future holds for reading and the printed word.

After the dirty little secret of book trashing by chains and publishers got publicized during this campaign, some folks have commented that e-readers are the answer to stopping the waste. But they're not the only answer, because we're willing to bet most people who care about books being trashed recognize the value of being able to hold a real book in your hand.
Breanna Sylvester at 11:43 am:
-you can't read an e-book in the tub w dry fingers without risk of electrocution.
-you don't need batteries for a real book, they're available anytime
-if you spill something on a book, its easier & less expensive to replace than an e-book
-you can't fill a bookcase with an e-book.
-you don't get the author's originality & artful expressions with an e-book like you can with a real book, some illustrations are meant for paper.
-most children won't be allowed to get an e-book, too costly to expect a child not to ruin. & if a child doesn't read early on, they're more likely to be illiterate.
Borders is not the only chain destroying unsold books. And big publishers are also to blame. Barnes & Noble, rumored to have already inked a deal with Apple, is trashing even more books on a regular basis than Borders because of its size. At 1300+ stores (including its college bookstores), B&N is the country's largest book retailer. Now that public awareness has been raised about dumpstering, expect Barnes & Noble and other chains and publishers to have a light shined their way soon.

The root problem behind all of this is the outdated business model the industry's using - resulting in overprinting by big publishers, over-ordering by big chains, and mountains of unsold books trashed.

Because they're the ones carrying out the actual destruction of books in most cases, retailers have a responsibility as well as publishers to end this wasteful practice. And it's big chains who are the primary culprits – independent bookstores order smarter, and trash and/or return far fewer books.

There's no excuse for this kind of waste in an era when more and more of us are aware we all need to be good stewards of the planet. Solutions? We can keep pressuring big publishers and chains to change their ways.

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