These days publishers want to be done with a book as quickly as possible. Most new books will get a decent-sized print run, and then if it doesn’t catch the public’s imagination the publisher will quickly pulp or remainder them so that they don’t count as inventory. Even fairly popular books can show up on the bargain table soon after their published, depending on how many were printed and how quickly they sold.
We generally don’t worry about remaindered books, because for the most part our books are old and were remaindered long ago, if ever. The first time remainders became relevant for us was when we wanted to offer Eric Brende’s Better Off. It was available from our usual sources as a new paperback that we would have sold for $10. But I had also noticed the remaindered hardback version on Carmon Friedrich’s bargain book list for $5. I looked around and found that most online bargain book sellers seemed to have hardback copies available for that price.
We didn’t want to sell the paperback when hardbacks were easily available for half the price, so I tried to figure out where bargain book sellers were getting their remaindered copies, so we could stock up. I still don’t know, really. But I did stumble on something almost as helpful. Lately my favorite used book website, abebooks.com, has started saying how many copies of a book are available from a particular seller. Usually it’s just one or two, but sometimes you’ll find it telling you there are more than twenty. I looked for Better Off,found a seller that had more than twenty copies available, and contacted him directly. It turned out he had 32 copies, was glad to sell them all to me, and even knocked 50 cents off his price for the quantity order.
Those copies are almost gone now, so I tried the same thing again yesterday. I found just one seller with multiple copies of the hardback edition, but couldn’t find a way to contact them through their website (alarm bells!), and in searching the internet found some negative comments from folks who had dealt with them. But now the paperback edition is also remaindered, so I found someone selling those and just ordered 21 copies, which we’ll be able to sell for $5.
If anyone knows a more direct route to obtaining remaindered copies of a book, I’d be glad to hear it. It isn’t something that will come up often for us, I don’t think. But if we can get a good price on remaindered hardback copies of The Omnivore’s Dilemma when the paperback comes out this fall, we’ll certainly try to get them and pass the savings along.