Enough of the hand-wringing - the IPG wants to help its members do something practical and high-impact and take real steps towards making their businesses and our industry more sustainable.
Inspired by a wide-ranging meeting in January (pre-Covid) we have decided to focus on the big win - looking at the industry supply chain through the prism of sustainability. To reduce the waste; the book miles; the unsold stock in landfill and the endemic inefficiencies would have the highest impact on the ‘greening’ of the sector. And commercially it makes sense too - the pandemic has highlighted many distribution challenges and accelerated the need to examine our antiquated supply chain ‘from soup to nuts’.
So - in early October the IPG brought together interested parties from across our industry - printers, booksellers, publishers and supply chain experts to identify the current challenges with a view to developing collective solutions. We discussed the efficiency of the current supply chain; stock management and the role of POD and the thorny issue of returns. Could the current Industry Returns Initiative be evolved to become the Industry Firm Sale Initiative? Could we move towards a landscape where returns were the exception rather than the rule?
We agreed that the next steps were to examine the economics of returns for both booksellers and publishers and understand the commercial realities of moving towards a firmer sales landscape plus interrogating the cost and speed of POD as a truly viable stock alternative. Big questions that require hard data which all parties are currently gathering in time to reconvene at the end of this month..
Once we have the facts we need to examine the mindsets. Is each sector of the industry prepared to change its business model and in certain cases sacrifice current commercial advantages for the common greener good? Are publishers prepared to print fewer books at higher prices? Are retailers prepared to take more buying risks on more advantageous terms? Are printers prepared to bear down on the costs of printing single copies and commit to a 24 hour turnaround?
We must not let this opportunity pass to tackle this enormous issue. With collective will and some sacrifice we could revolutionise the supply chain in efficiency and sustainability to the benefit of our consumers and our own businesses alike.
Amanda Ridout is the founder and c.e.o. of Boldwood Books and vice-president of the IPG.
If you'd like to hear more on how to make publishing more sustainble, the panel 'Greening the books: practical steps for a sustainable business' will be streaming live at 4pm next Thursday 19th as part of the week-long FutureBook 202 virtual conference. Join us to hear Helen Conford (Profile Books), Amanda Ridout (Boldwood Books), Siena Parker (Penguin Random House), Vicky Ellis (Clays) and author Anita Sethi share the actions that are really helping to secure the future of the book business. See the full programme and book your pass now.