I got couple of good definitions of the traditional Print run. One of the disturbing things mentioned in one of the definitions that many a times 50 percent of them are destroyed. How it was destroyed is not known but if it has anything to do with burning of books or something, bad for everybody. I am surprised if that used to be the case.

I come from India and here for most people one big source of fiction books has been something called booksbyweight https://www.facebook.com/Booksbyweight/ . This is very popular with millennials who go to discover new authors, new genres at very low cost.

While this is good for the seller and probably a bit for Publishers, are authors compensated for it ? I would also ask what authors think of it.

  • David's answer about remainders is where I was thinking too. In the US, we have many bookstores that sell brand new books that are remainders and sold at a huge discount. Turn a book sideways and look for the tell tale slash of ink pen on the bottom edges of the volume. Your books by weight store is either selling used books or new books that are remainders (or both).
    – Cyn
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 17:00

3 Answers 3


Booksbyweight appears to be simply a used bookstore with a bulk pricing model.

In the paper world the economic model for books is that the publisher sells copies. The copy then belongs to the person who bought it. They can resell it to whoever they want, including used book stores. The author and publisher receive no further compensation when a book is resold.

Generally speaking, authors and publishers don't receive any compensation when their books are lent out by libraries either, though there are now public lending right payments in some countries. (Pretty small, I believe.)

The model for the digital world is very different. The publisher licenses a right to view individual volumes in a digital library. You can view the copies you license on multiple devices, but you cannot resell the book after you have finished it. There is no used market for e-books.

Another model that is emerging (pioneered by O'Reilley for technical books) is that you subscribe to an entire library of books for an annual fee. The publisher and author than get a cut from the library when their book is actually read. In fact, they get paid by how many pages are read, so you get less if someone reads a chapter and abandons it than if they read all the way to the end.

I think the latter model may actually be the fairest model of all to writers and publishers.


Another possible route to market for books unsold by the publisher is that they get remaindered, which means that unsold stock is sold cheaply and in bulk to merchants who will try to sell on through bulk discounters, possibly in third world countries.

For the publisher, the alternative is often to pay storage fees at a distributor or pay for the books to be pulped. Pulping often involves book materials being put to uses that you wouldn't guess at, incidentally.

There is unlikely to be a royalty payment for the author for such sales, as they are often below the sunk cost of the product (printing, distribution, storage).

eBook sales to libraries are often at a considerably higher price than retail. Bearing in mind that an eBook with an official retail price of £25 can sell to a retailer for half of that, it might be sold to a library with a "30 simultaneous borrowers" agreement for a high multiple of £25. I've seen multiples ranging from x2 to x20, and library prices of over GBP 1,000 for an eBook (of which an author would get their contractual royalty share, of course).


What that definition of "print run" is missing is the actual printing cost. There is a huge cost of setting everything up to print let's say a 200 page book. If you print 10,000 books, the first book costs an enormous sum of money; the other 9,999 are dirt cheap.

So if you estimate you can sell 6,000 books, and print 6,000 books, and you sell them all and realise you could sell 2,000 more, printing these 2,000 will cost you almost as much as printing 6,000, and printing 6,000 plus 2,000 will cost you as much as printing 15,000 in one go. That's why you will always print a lot more than you think you will be selling, because its much cheaper to have too many printed than not having enough printed.

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