How Hard Can it Be to Give Books Away?

How hard can it be to give a book away?

This isn’t about anything I’ve written.

I used to sell books for a living and now I have ceased trading as a business the remaining volumes are taking up space I want to use in other ways. These are military related books so have a niche market and they tend to be the ones that weren’t snapped up by those with general interest or specialists. They are middle of the road titles, too obscure to be popular, not rare enough to be collectors’ items.

So what do you do with them?

A few I’ll give a home to myself, but as for the rest?

I’ve tried offering them for free on forums and sites where people interested in such material gather and I’ve given some away for the cost of postage.

However, a fair number remain. I offered them to local charity shops who declined (I have mentioned this reluctance to take hard backed books before. Their shredder can’t cope with them if they don’t sell in their allotted time on the shelves apparently). My local council’s advice is they don’t want them for paper recycling and suggest I should sell them online, give them away or donate to a charity shop!

So it looks like landfill.

There is such a noise about recycling and waste and climate change, but when it comes to practical answers everyone would rather tick boxes if in power, or be a shouty activist gluing themselves to something rather than addressing practical issues.

I suppose that one has to accept that if there are too many copies of The Victorian Army in Pictures lying around compared to the number of people who are interested in such an arcane subject then, despite my dislike of the concept, destroying them is the only answer. I was going to say ‘pulping’ them but how one gets them into the supply chain for pulping is beyond me. The web is full of the story that the glue used in the manufacture of books makes them unsuitable for recycling in that fashion. But I thought that was the fate of all the remaindered books once they have dropped down through the food chain of remaindered book shops and car boot sales. What happened to that concept? What happened to remaindered books shops?

Amazon I suppose. A boon in many ways, a massive disrupter of a lifecycle in another.

The bit about not pulping books as they are unsuitable for recycling sounds like dribble to me. It certainly wasn’t true 19 years ago when TBS Returns (a subdivision of Random House) used to shred, pulp and recycle into cardboard tons of remaindered overstock every day (they took books from 25 other publishing houses as well as their own overambitious print runs).

So why not now?

TBS (The Book Service) is still going as a distributor (now part of the behemoth Penguin Random House owned by German based private conglomerate Bertelsmann – you wonder how monopolies legislation is implemented). I couldn’t say if they still pulp ‘unsuitably glued’ books but I doubt I could get my small stock into their factory even if they do. It does seem to suggest however that the internet story about used books being unpulpable is just another urban myth in digital clothing.

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