To Save the Planet, Patagonia Books Stops Sending Print ARCs
Thursday, November 21, 2019
Posted by: Christopher Locke
|Pictured left is one of Patagonia Books' final print ARCs and on the right is the cover of the digital-only ARC for their February 2020 release, Still Sideways.
Recently, IBPA member Patagonia Books announced that in order to be more environmentally-friendly they will no longer be sending out print books as advance reading copies and instead will only be sending digital advance reading copies. IBPA is a great supporter of green practices (in fact, we’ve included it in our Code of Ethics), so we spoke to Patagonia Books’ Director Karla Olson to get the details about how they’ve implemented this major decision and how other publishers can follow suit.
IBPA: What inspired you to decide that Patagonia Books will no longer print advance reading copies and instead will only be sending digital advance reading copies?
Karla Olson (KO): Last year our founder, Yvon Chouinard, changed our mission statement to “We are in business to save our home planet.” He challenged us to examine everything we do with this mission in mind. We started out looking for a source to print ARCs on 100% post-consumer-waste (PCW) recycled paper, which requires a minimum purchase of thousands of pounds of paper that is essentially wasted for a small print run and makes the cost prohibitive. That prompted us to take an honest look at the short lifespan of a printed ARC—newsrooms and reviewers are still being inundated with stacks of ARCs that are essentially thrown or given away after being considered for coverage. In a discussion with our PR agent, Stephanie Ridge of Wild Ridge PR, this became an obvious area for us to shore up our environmental impact, especially when services like NetGalley and Edelweiss make sharing digital reader copies (DRCs) easy. What’s the point of killing trees, using water, expending fossil fuel, and creating greenhouse gases for something that can easily be replaced by a digital version?
In addition, we, like other publishers, have discovered that ARCs are being sold through Amazon Marketplace and other secondary channels, despite the fact that they are often marked that they are not to be resold. I’ve received emails from readers commenting on typos or missing copy, such as captions. We don’t want to continue to feed these copies into the system, though our decision is primarily motivated by reducing our environmental impact.
IBPA: For how long have you been planning to make this change?
KO: We haven’t released a book with a print ARC for over a year, and since then the company has committed to printing everything on only PCW recycled paper. This commitment encouraged us to re-examine our policy and to make that explicit to the industry.
IBPA: Do you have any stats on the positive environmental impact this will have?
KO: Our printer, Friesen’s, provides us with an Environmental Benefits Statement for every book we print on 100% PCW recycled paper. For a recent book, it looked like this for a print run of 7,500 copies:
Extrapolating from that for all the ARCs we would have printed in 2019 (about 1,700 copies), we are saving:
- 28 Trees
- 13,034 gallons of water
- 13 million BTUs energy
- 872 pounds waste
- 2400 pounds greenhouse gases
IBPA: Not only is sending digital copies much better for the environment but it’s also more cost-effective. Can you discuss this?
KO: It is most definitely more cost effective, and I hope that will be additional motivation for many publishers to take this step as well.
IBPA: Do you think there will be (or has there already been) any pushback from trade publications, media, etc. about only sending digital copies?
KO: We have gotten pushback from some review outlets, saying that their reviewers prefer printed copies because they can take notes in them. But there are easy ways to make notes in digital copies as well, or on a separate document. This industry is notoriously slow to change, and there may be some publications that are not ready for this. But I so hope that our action will make them start to rethink this wasteful and unnecessary requirement.
IBPA: How will you deal with this pushback (such as an outlet saying that they won’t post a review pre-publication without a print version)?
KO: Well, we’ll just have to live with that. Or we will be happy to send them a copy of the actual printed book, and hope that they will review it at that time. A review after publication can also generate book sales, and we hope that if they require a printed copy, they will reconsider their policy of only reviewing books before publication.
The other option for publishers is to print books early (3-5 months in advance) and hold them, while they send them out for reviews. This is what a lot of children’s book publishers do, since the production quality of their books is such an important part of the buying decision. I don’t love this strategy because there is momentum and urgency to many of our books and we don’t want to compromise that.
So we will see.
IBPA: How close is the publishing industry to making it standard that publishers only send digital ARCs?
KO: It is totally possible for publishers to adopt this policy, since there are so many ways to disseminate review copies digitally: digital review copies (DRCs) with Edelweiss, Netgalley or others; flip books (we use Uberflip) or plain old PDFs (watermarked, of course).
The sticking point is the reviewers, as I’ve described above.
IBPA: Can you share tips for other indie publishers about how they can make a smooth transition to only sending digital ARCs instead of print ARCs?
KO: Sign up for the services I mentioned above, which are not as expensive as publishing and mailing ARCs. And then make a statement, as we have, that you are doing this to save money, yes, but also to save the environment. Make it part of your brand.
IBPA: Patagonia is known for being a proponent of preserving the environment, so can you share some tips for how independent publishers can be more environmentally-friendly?
KO: The number one way you can diminish the environmental footprint of a book is to print on 100% PCW recycled paper. It is not as expensive as most people think, but we need to let printers know that we want it! Work with your printer, let them know you would like to explore the option. Please let Lightning Source know that you want to print on recycled paper. The VP of Manufacturing of Ingram told me in July, when I was visiting in Nashville, that the only reason they don’t offer a recycled paper option is because they don’t think there is enough demand. Let’s flood Lightning Source with requests and let them know that there is demand!
IBPA: How has it been beneficial to you to be a member of Independent Book Publishers Association?
KO: I have been a proud member of IBPA for decades, and I have valued every minute. I have learned so much from their educational programs, including IBPA Publishing University, as well as the ongoing webinars (and there are great resources always available on the website.) Books I’ve edited and published have received IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, which gives them that seal of approval. I have used many of the marketing programs, such as the Library Market eBlasts and the Bookstore Catalogs. Both afforded great leads that led to book sales, and I definitely feel that I got my money back. When I was an independent consultant, I also used the member benefits, including reduced shipping costs, etc.
|An assortment of recent Patagonia Books titles
But the best is the community and the referrals. You can always reach out to the staff or other members with a question and you will get more information than you could have hoped for. I especially love the forums on the website, which allow you to gather answers in a quick and efficient manner from people who know because they are doing.
IBPA: Do you have any new books coming out soon?
KO: We have several exciting titles coming out in 2020, especially Still Sideways: Finding the Edge Again after Losing My Sight by Devon Raney, a blind snowboarder and surfer, Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of their Common Fate by bestselling author Mark Kurlansky, and Working to Restore: Reversing Climate Change through Innovation by journalist Esha Chhabra. It’s going to be a great year.
IBPA: Thank you, Karla, for sharing your expertise on independent publishing, and we commend you on all your efforts to make Patagonia’s publishing practices more environmentally-friendly!
Click here to learn more about Patagonia Books!
Share your own publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details about the types of stories we're seeking, click here.
Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you published a book about space exploration and now it's being read in a live video feed by astronauts from the International Space Station), unique news (such as, you published a book about cycling and now the author is riding a bike across the U.S. for their book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).
Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact email@example.com with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, your book's genre, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.
For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!
Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!