You walk into Barnes & Noble and see a display of the latest John Grisham novel. Stacks and stacks of the same book. Next to it is a tell-all memoir by a famous axtress. Next to the tell-all memoir is self-help book promising to change your life. And next to that...well you get the idea.
Not all those books get sold. At $25-30.00 a piece, hardcover books are expensive and the books have to be pretty damn good read to pursuade people to part with their hard earned money.
What happens to the books that don't sell? You'd think the bookstores would do what retail stores do. Whatever doesn't sell gets marked down, and marked down again, then sold to Big Lots or to any number of businesses who deal in overstocks and resales.
But that's not what happens in the publishing business. The books that don't sell are returned to the publisher. The publisher, in turn sells what it can to the resale people, who sell them back to the bookstores. Eventually, a good number of them end up in a landfill.
In the process, nearly 200 million pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere, not to mention the damage done to the environment by the books dumped in landfills.
Which is why I'm proud that my book Caviar Dreams is produced by the Print on Demand (POD) process. The books are stored electronically, and printed out as they are ordred. A print run could be one or a thousand, and there are never more printed than somebody is willing to pay for.
I've heard that the traditional method of printing out a thousand books at a time is cheaper than the POD process, even with having to deal with the returns.