I have come to the realization why I try not to carry mass market books–it’s because I can’t bear the idea of stripping the front cover off and destroying a perfectly good book if I need to return it. Why do mass market books get stripped and all other books can be returned whole, to be resold?
It seems to me that destroying a perfectly good book that is not likely to get damaged in the box back to the publisher is wasteful and a travesty. Why are publishers asking bookstores to destroy books? I have never been able to do that, much to my store’s own financial loss. Am I supposed to just throw these books in the recycling dumpster? Or the trash? While I love the idea of making donations to worthy places, sometimes I can’t devote staff time to organizing and boxing them up.
If publishers can handle trade paperback and hardcover returns (these are much more likely to get damaged during the journey back to the publisher) why are mass markets books so vexing? I have never understood why pulping books is an acceptable business practice when there are so many who need books. How about donating the books that are destined to be pulped to any of the myriad of town and school libraries that are desperate for books? What about creating classroom sets of classics that come in a mass market size? Are mass market books so much harder to deal with? There are plenty of other paperbacks I return, specifically kids’ books, that are less expensive than mass markets, and I’m not told to destroy them and throw them away.
So, as someone whose heart actually hurts on the rare occasions I’ve stripped a cover, I really think there has to be a better way.