Monday, November 10, 2008

More on book returns

As a follow-up to my recent post on how book-returns may be a necessary evil if you value independent bookstores, here's a great post from an industry-insider on the dark flip-side the equation. Returns are hurting publishers in a big way during the credit crunch, and it's behind a lot of the dire financial news you're hearing about publishing companies at the moment.

Ignoring my arguments about how they benefit indie booksellers, it's otherwise hard not to conclude that the return system is insane. But it isn't likely to go away, or even be substantially modified, any time soon. There are lots of reasons, but here are the big two:

For any one publisher to modify or eliminate the return system would be suicide for that publisher. Buyers, especially the 500-pound gorillas of retail, would simply stop ordering.

But for all, or even several of the publishers to change the terms in lockstep would undoubtedly cause anti-trust laws to kick in.