Going through my spam infested inbox today, I came across a response to a past post about the environment and publishing. I'm reposting it here in the hopes that we can have a discussion about the topic which interests me enough that I'll be doing my dissertation/major project on it.
I've just been reading your blog and tried posting a reply, but being the non-blogging luddite that I am I decided that email was easier anyway!
I was also at that seminar (I was the one asking about the impact of ink and water usage). What struck me as surprising is the seeming acceptance of inaccurate print runs. In all my experience of publishing, including a few yeas of postgrad study in Australia, I've learned that getting your print runs right first time is a crucial factor to running an economically viable publishing business. In the old days of printing from film it used to be much cheaper to do a short print run and then do a reprint when your stock ran out. Nowadays with computer-to-plate (CTP) processes it costs much more to do a reprint because the plates have to be reproduced.
What we were taught in my postgrad program is that a smart publisher gets their print runs right first time - don't print too many or too few. Pulping also costs money, and is obviously a huge waste, and I'm quite surprised to hear that it may be common practice (maybe it is here in the UK more than Australia). If publishers want to be good, they have to do their research before they sign off on their final print run. Pulling numbers out of thin air is not good business practice. Researching the market and knowing that you can sell every single copy of your print run is good business practice.
Perhaps pulping should be more expensive, or perhaps should be penalised more. Perhaps publishers/editors who end up pulping their stock because they've printed too many should be penalised by having their performance bonuses reduced.
There are many things we can do to make a difference (even if it's only a small difference; it's better than sitting back complaining and doing nothing).
Good luck with your publishing career (and studies).
Now that our classwork revolves around calculating costs, I understand what you mean about the cost of plates. It is pretty high and printing more seems to be almost always more economical than printing less. I think most people would rather just overestimate the number of copies they can sell rather than run the risk of missing out on sales when booksellers run out of stock.
I like the idea of coming up with some kind of punishment for waste although I don't know how it would be enforced fairly. Everyone will be trying to assign blame somewhere else, "the publisher overestimated the number", "the bookseller didn't do their part in the marketing process" etc. I think people won't try hard enough until they care about it for their own sake/conscience. I guess I'm still very naive :)
9 months ago