Remaindered Books

This is post #18 of #BlogchatterA2Z.

This includes blogging every day in April for 26 days, except on Sundays. What’s special about it is that every day’s post will be corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. 

My theme for 2021 is Bookish TriviaIf you liked this post, don’t forget to “roll” me on Blogchatter’s website!

All my #BlogchatterA2Z posts 2021 can be found here.

A remaindered book (also called remainders) is an unsold book that was returned to the publisher by the bookseller.

When a book no longer sells, booksellers move it off their shelves to make space for newer titles. They return the books to publishers and claim a refund. 

Remainder marks
Remainder marks

To recover some of their costs, the publishers sell these books at vastly reduced prices to other bookstores that specialize in remainders. The practice of disposing off unsold books at deep discounts is called remaindering.

The term may have originated from the fact that the unsold books “remained” in the warehouse because publishers found it difficult to accurately predict print runs. Even when a print run is over, publishers do another print run until there are some books left over—a phenomenon called “overstocking.”

What is a remainder mark?

To distinguish these books as remaindered books and prevent them from being returned for a refund, publishers put a mark on the book. 

This mark, called a remainder mark, is usually a stroke made with a felt tip pen across the bottom or the top of the text block, near the spine. Publishers may also use rubber stamps or spray dyes. 

Some publishers use fancy remainder marks:

PublisherRemainder mark
Random HouseAn icon of a small house
PutnamAn ink stamp of a capital “P”

Simon & Schuster 
A stamp of its logo

Other publishers may write “R” on the front inside cover, whereas others may stamp the title page. 

Older books may have a corner cut off or a hole punched in the front cover to distinguish them as remainders.

Why do publishers remainder unsold books?

Because they save on long-term storage costs and get more money from remaindering agents than pulping mills would be willing to pay.

Typically, hardcover books and trade paperbacks (softcover, larger than pocket paperbacks) are remaindered.

remaindered book ink stamp

Mass-market paperbacks are destroyed, either by stripping (tearing off front cover), recycling, or burning.

Remaindered books are essentially new books that may have some wear and tear from being transported. People can buy remaindered books for as much as 90% off the retail price

Do authors and booksellers benefit from remainders?

Authors, of course, do not want their books to be remaindered for obvious reasons! Also, they do not get any monetary benefits out of the process. However, remaindered books offer readers a chance to get to know an author they would otherwise not read. The author’s name remains on the shelves of bargain bookstores, keeping his or her brand equity alive.

Remaindered book cartoon

Booksellers aren’t quite sure what they feel about remaindered books. They’re insecure about the discounts that readers get when they buy such books, but booksellers recognize that remaindered books don’t undercut them.

Remainder Trade in India

In India, the remaindered book trade performs reasonably well because the market is price-sensitive yet book crazy.

Unsold books from Indian and international publishers are brought in containers to port cities. From here, remaindering agents bring these books to bargain booksellers.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a high-quality hardcover book at a fraction of the retail price?

remaindered books stripped

But with e-books and print-on-demand book technology, the remaindered trade is reducing.

Status of remainders in book collecting

Remaindered books may not be a big deal if you have acquired one as a reading copy.

However, book collectors consider remainder marks a defect so they do not acquire such books for collections or resale. 

A remainder of a rare title will have more value than a remainder of a relatively common title.



6 thoughts on “Remaindered Books

  1. Oh never knew unsold ones are called remaindered books and they are marked as such, will be curious to find these marks now 🙂

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