Puddletown Publishing Group

Happy Earth Day!

In Renee LaChance on April 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm

It is a great day to discuss the sustainability of ebooks versus paper books. And an even better day to reveal how the Dead Tree Press can become more sustainable and save billions of dollars by making one change to its business model.

The most often quoted study on ereader sustainability was released by Cleantech Group. Cleantech Group is a provider of market intelligence and insight on sustainable issues. Basically, Cleantech Group sets industry standards. In August 2009 they released a life cycle analysis of Amazon’s Kindle.

The report, authored by Emma Ritch, forecasts that ereaders purchased from 2009 to 2012 could prevent 5.3 billion kg of carbon dioxide in 2012, or 9.9 billion kg during the four-year time period.

These are staggering numbers. That is equal to the average carbon dioxide emissions of one million U.S. households. One million.

But the astute reader will notice the word “could.” The reality is Ritch’s numbers hinge on the publishing industry decreasing production of paper books. This is happening as ebooks begin to outsell paper books, but paper books are not going to be replaced completely by ebooks.

Over the past week I have looked at data, studied statistics, and looked at numbers in ways that would numb the brain of the mathphobic. Don’t worry, I am not going to bore you with all that. I can distill all that data down to one change the traditional publishing industry can make to eliminate billions of pounds of CO2. One change to the Dead Tree Press business model that will save billions of dollars per year and would save the industry and the booksellers dependent on it.

It is so simple. No returns.

It started during the Great Depression. A desperate New York publisher told bookstores you can return whatever you don’t sell. It caught on until it became standard practice and continues to this day.

The practice causes publishers to overprint titles, warehouse them, and dump them if the book doesn’t sell. A 2006 Green Press Initiative report says one billion books per year go to landfills due to this practice. Not even recycled. One billion. That’s crazy. That is waste this planet cannot afford. Waste of resources, waste of dollars, waste of lives. I am not the first to notice this.

Any rational business person can see the error of this business model. Epublishers, like Puddletown Publishing Group, use a model of print on demand. Not only do we provide books digitally, we also have print on demand editions that are custom made when you purchase them. We don’t print them until we sell them.

The inconvenient truth is, ebooks aren’t killing the publishing industry and bookstores, it is the outdated business model of returns. It is not a sustainable practice and it needs to change. Booksellers should demand that publishers eliminate returns. This would revolutionize the book industry and make it sustainable for the planet and for the bottom line for decades to come. It seems so simple but it is not convenient.

It won’t happen unless consumers demand it. Ask your favorite bookstore to embrace the point of no returns. Then go hug some dirt, it’s Earth Day.

  1. Wonderful article and completely true. When I worked in a theatre in NY we shared a warehouse with a publishing company. It was appalling how many books just sat there, rotting and getting mildewy so even if someone ordered them they’d have to be reprinted anyway!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: