News

Healthy Planet opens Books For Free shops

A green charity offering books for free aims to open an outlet in every town in the UK, and has called on publishers to donate titles.

The Booksellers Association has come out in support of the programme run by Healthy Planet, which promotes environmentally-friendly initiatives including funding conservation projects, providing learning resources for schools and more recently opening up Books For Free (BFF) shops.

The BFF shops are stocked with books that would otherwise be pulped or put in landfill by charity shops and second-hand book dealers that can’t sell them. Healthy Planet claims to have saved 50 tonnes of books from landfill this year, at 2,000 books a tonne.

There are currently nine BFF outlets open; in Basildon, Southport, Reading, Stockton-on-Tees and London—which has five outlets. A further 19 are in the pipeline. The charity takes advantage of empty retail spaces by offering to pay the lease-holder or landlord’s business rate in return for opening up a BFF store.

One of the latest outlets to open is in the West 12 shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush, London, which asks customers to take no more than three books, each in return for an optional donation. It stocks a range of genres of books in varying conditions by authors including Stephen King, Frank Skinner and Agatha Christie.

The charity’s founder Shaylesh Patel said: “For us, this is about saving books from landfill, but literacy also has a positive correlation with education and people learning about the impact they have on the environment . . . We would like to open as many stores as we can—hundreds—it is our aim to have a Books For Free store in every town in the UK and be the largest ‘retailer’ in the country.”

Tim Godfray, Booksellers Association c.e.o., said: “The encouragement and enabling of reading is something all of us in the book industry welcome, so a charity taking the initiative to put—otherwise genuinely unwanted—books in the hands of those who may well be a book-buying customer of tomorrow is certainly not something to be discouraged.”

However, other independent retailers have expressed concern about the development. Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath said while he had not researched the initiative, the charity should lobby publishers to reduce print runs and booksellers to reduce their returns as opposed to “undercutting high street booksellers by 100%”.

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This is a most ludicrous scheme - I see that the well salaried Tim Godfray endorses the plan, typical of the BA, don't know when to give a 'nobody available for comment' response.

How much will the Healthy Planet "officers" be paid : executive management in many charities receive 'industry standard' remuneration.

There's a reason why these books can't be sold...

I find this bizarre. Books have been available for free in towns to everyone for generations - it's called a public library. What could be greener than re-using the books (ie borrowing them - and book borrowers are also book buyers, the two elements of the industry complement each other)? If only people would put as much passion and energy into supporting and developing existing facilities instead of re-inventing the wheel, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a complete mess now!

Mr B also has a valid point - presumably these items are destined for landfill because no-one wants them, ergo it would be more prudent not to print off so many in the first place.

I find this bizarre. Books have been available for free in towns to everyone for generations - it's called a public library. What could be greener than re-using the books (ie borrowing them - and book borrowers are also book buyers, the two elements of the industry complement each other)? If only people would put as much passion and energy into supporting and developing existing facilities instead of re-inventing the wheel, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a complete mess now!

Mr B also has a valid point - presumably these items are destined for landfill because no-one wants them, ergo it would be more prudent not to print off so many in the first place.

Unwanted books from publishers do not "knowingly" go into landfill ; they are either *pulped* or *sold* on the secondary market (firm sale) - much depends upon the publishers policies.

Incidentally, the days in which unwanted (and unsuitable) publishers stock is dumped in Africa as book aid has thankfully long gone.

People *do* want Agatha Christie and Stephen King books, though. They might be overstocks but they're hardly unsaleable. Why would anyone give those away?

Come on Tim, wake up! Why would "our" BA support this. It makes even more of a mockery of our subscriptions.

Just a further thought, Healthy Planet may be up for Chain "Bookseller" of the Year by 2012!!!

Tim Godfray's completely lost the plot. How can this possibly benefit the retailers he's grossly overpaid to represent?? Mr B is right; reduce print runs and reduce returns; stop publishing for the sake of it.

I think it's a grand idea but it need not be limited to Green Stores. I've visited coffee shops where there are books available to take home or where books can be left for others to take home free. In fact, this could happen anywhere--doctor's offices, hospital waiting rooms, or any place where people might be waiting and be grateful for a little stimulation. If you want to share the wealth, just write an inscription in any book you wish to donate: "This book is yours, if you want it" and leave it for someone else where it's convenient.

Are you saying Steven King cast offs aren't the best way to improve literacy in this country? It was a dark and stormy night when I learned to read.

My first comment gets deleted - so much for the credibility of TheBookseller comments section.

I note that my first comment has now been restored.

As an indie who runs a stockholding commercial bookshop this Healthy Planet BFB scheme raises some very serious doubts in my mind - I leave it to others to judge the scheme for themselves.

I knew there was a reason that I don't pay to belong to the Booksellers Association anymore and this endorsement of such a harmful initiative to booksellers and bookshops is it.
Charity Book shops were already being held responsible for killing off how many independent secondhand bookshops?? and this one now works at killing them off as well!

I appreciate the initiative to keep books off landfill, that can only be applauded, but can they not instead do good deads by reducing the costs to the beleagured libraries by donating these books to them, especially the small local community ones that are dispearing instead of competing on the high street with those remaining that pay rents and staff and so contribute to the economy!

Can they not contact the remaining booksellers instead(indeed any existing bookseller, new/secondhand/chain/indie) in each town and city and instead come to an arrangment with them that would see them work with those bookshops in return for some sort of full on advertising of the charity, indeed even have an inshop lending library of these books in the shops if really needed, but most town centres do still have libraries!

Thus working with the bookseller instead of gutting them and disembowling them on the high street which it seems is part of the exercise given Patels statement 'it is our aim to have a Books For Free store in every town in the UK and be the largest ‘retailer’ in the country'.

If they really want to be a retailer than can they please pay all the same costs as the retailers likely to go out of business and not just play the 'charity' game whilst contributing to the loss of paid jobs in the country and it's continuiing economic decline - because for a charity it doesn't seem like a very charitable thing to do if we use the word in it's right context does it.

Any chance that Tim Godfray and the BA could concentrate and keep their focus on encouraging and enabling the buying and selling of books?

Jonathan, absolutely no chance. Tim Godfray is looking out for Tim Godfray, not the bookshops he's supposed to represent. He's absolutely lost the plot, as have the Association. If you can live without Book Tokens, leave the Association. They do nothing for you, and are now positively harming you.

This is a business with a healthy turnover and charity status!
Turnover: 2010 £1.1m according to socialenterpriselive.com
Nice little earner for someone!

If something looks too good to be true, it generally is.

Treading a fine line between ‘scam’ and ‘service’ - in Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c77b68cc-112a-11e1-a95c-00144feabdc0.html

Healthy Planet Buys books at wholesale prices -5p per kg- and pretends that they are free, the customer however has already unwittingly paid and dearly.

Healthy Planet actively encourage wealthy landlords to dodge their taxes through their Healthy spaces scheme;
http://healthyplanet.org/projects/healthy-spaces/property-scheme.aspx

£millions then go in the Healthy Planet coffers away from vital resources such as libraries...

This is a most ludicrous scheme - I see that the well salaried Tim Godfray endorses the plan, typical of the BA, don't know when to give a 'nobody available for comment' response.

How much will the Healthy Planet "officers" be paid : executive management in many charities receive 'industry standard' remuneration.

This is a business with a healthy turnover and charity status!
Turnover: 2010 £1.1m according to socialenterpriselive.com
Nice little earner for someone!

There's a reason why these books can't be sold...

Are you saying Steven King cast offs aren't the best way to improve literacy in this country? It was a dark and stormy night when I learned to read.

I find this bizarre. Books have been available for free in towns to everyone for generations - it's called a public library. What could be greener than re-using the books (ie borrowing them - and book borrowers are also book buyers, the two elements of the industry complement each other)? If only people would put as much passion and energy into supporting and developing existing facilities instead of re-inventing the wheel, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a complete mess now!

Mr B also has a valid point - presumably these items are destined for landfill because no-one wants them, ergo it would be more prudent not to print off so many in the first place.

Unwanted books from publishers do not "knowingly" go into landfill ; they are either *pulped* or *sold* on the secondary market (firm sale) - much depends upon the publishers policies.

Incidentally, the days in which unwanted (and unsuitable) publishers stock is dumped in Africa as book aid has thankfully long gone.

I find this bizarre. Books have been available for free in towns to everyone for generations - it's called a public library. What could be greener than re-using the books (ie borrowing them - and book borrowers are also book buyers, the two elements of the industry complement each other)? If only people would put as much passion and energy into supporting and developing existing facilities instead of re-inventing the wheel, perhaps we wouldn't be in such a complete mess now!

Mr B also has a valid point - presumably these items are destined for landfill because no-one wants them, ergo it would be more prudent not to print off so many in the first place.

People *do* want Agatha Christie and Stephen King books, though. They might be overstocks but they're hardly unsaleable. Why would anyone give those away?

Come on Tim, wake up! Why would "our" BA support this. It makes even more of a mockery of our subscriptions.

Just a further thought, Healthy Planet may be up for Chain "Bookseller" of the Year by 2012!!!

Tim Godfray's completely lost the plot. How can this possibly benefit the retailers he's grossly overpaid to represent?? Mr B is right; reduce print runs and reduce returns; stop publishing for the sake of it.

I think it's a grand idea but it need not be limited to Green Stores. I've visited coffee shops where there are books available to take home or where books can be left for others to take home free. In fact, this could happen anywhere--doctor's offices, hospital waiting rooms, or any place where people might be waiting and be grateful for a little stimulation. If you want to share the wealth, just write an inscription in any book you wish to donate: "This book is yours, if you want it" and leave it for someone else where it's convenient.

My first comment gets deleted - so much for the credibility of TheBookseller comments section.

I note that my first comment has now been restored.

As an indie who runs a stockholding commercial bookshop this Healthy Planet BFB scheme raises some very serious doubts in my mind - I leave it to others to judge the scheme for themselves.

I knew there was a reason that I don't pay to belong to the Booksellers Association anymore and this endorsement of such a harmful initiative to booksellers and bookshops is it.
Charity Book shops were already being held responsible for killing off how many independent secondhand bookshops?? and this one now works at killing them off as well!

I appreciate the initiative to keep books off landfill, that can only be applauded, but can they not instead do good deads by reducing the costs to the beleagured libraries by donating these books to them, especially the small local community ones that are dispearing instead of competing on the high street with those remaining that pay rents and staff and so contribute to the economy!

Can they not contact the remaining booksellers instead(indeed any existing bookseller, new/secondhand/chain/indie) in each town and city and instead come to an arrangment with them that would see them work with those bookshops in return for some sort of full on advertising of the charity, indeed even have an inshop lending library of these books in the shops if really needed, but most town centres do still have libraries!

Thus working with the bookseller instead of gutting them and disembowling them on the high street which it seems is part of the exercise given Patels statement 'it is our aim to have a Books For Free store in every town in the UK and be the largest ‘retailer’ in the country'.

If they really want to be a retailer than can they please pay all the same costs as the retailers likely to go out of business and not just play the 'charity' game whilst contributing to the loss of paid jobs in the country and it's continuiing economic decline - because for a charity it doesn't seem like a very charitable thing to do if we use the word in it's right context does it.

Any chance that Tim Godfray and the BA could concentrate and keep their focus on encouraging and enabling the buying and selling of books?

Jonathan, absolutely no chance. Tim Godfray is looking out for Tim Godfray, not the bookshops he's supposed to represent. He's absolutely lost the plot, as have the Association. If you can live without Book Tokens, leave the Association. They do nothing for you, and are now positively harming you.

If something looks too good to be true, it generally is.

Treading a fine line between ‘scam’ and ‘service’ - in Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c77b68cc-112a-11e1-a95c-00144feabdc0.html

Healthy Planet Buys books at wholesale prices -5p per kg- and pretends that they are free, the customer however has already unwittingly paid and dearly.

Healthy Planet actively encourage wealthy landlords to dodge their taxes through their Healthy spaces scheme;
http://healthyplanet.org/projects/healthy-spaces/property-scheme.aspx

£millions then go in the Healthy Planet coffers away from vital resources such as libraries...