Book-Buying Habits & Returns

July 1998
by Jan Nathan, PMA Executive Director

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Each time I sit in on a publishing meeting, the common thread that seems to develop is: “How do we handle returns?” This problem is not new. I look back in the early days of PMA (1983 or thereabouts) and remember the same concerns being voiced then. I listen to bookstore owners. I listen to wholesalers and distributors. I listen to publishers. All tell a different version of the returns story. And all have solutions that seem to be one-sided. However-and this is the largest factor of them all-no one makes money if the book doesn’t sell through, so really no one wants returns. This year, the new PMA Board of Directors will be focusing on the problem of returns and will hopefully be able to come up with some standards that can be accepted and agreed upon by all parts of the distribution-to-the-consumer channel. From the booksellers I’ve heard a variety of reasons for returns. Some of them make sense, some don’t. They look at it as a cleaning process for their stores and shelves. By returning books that haven’t sold through and have little or no consumer interest, they are making room on their shelves for other publishers and other titles that they may not currently have room for in their store. Many publishers feel that if a book is bought by the stores on a nonreturnable basis, the bookstore owners will really try to help the publisher sell that book to the consumer. The bookstore owners, in all cases, state that if the consumer doesn’t want the product, no amount of hand-…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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