International Buyers Flock to Remaindered Books

In Europe by Edward Nawotka

• Overseas book buyers are finding bargains at American remainder book shows and boosting a business that might otherwise be threatened by the steady decrease in the number independent booksellers and adoption of digital books.

• Asian markets — in Japan, Korea and China — have proven especially robust as buyers demand more and more affordable English-language reading materials.

By Edward Nawotka

BOSTON: The mass market adoption of e-books might very well cut into the global supply of remainders, but it’s not happening yet. Remainder specific book shows –- Chicago’s CIROBE, the UK’s CIANA, Atlanta’s Spring Book Show — are still doing a robust business despite our “flat is the new up” economy and the move towards digital publishing. Even Frankfurt has seen several new remainder vendors in recent years. Increasingly, in the US, it’s overseas buyers who are coming to snap up the low cost books.

Larry May, director of the Spring Book Show, inaugurated GABBS — the Great American Bargain Book Show — in Boston last year. The show, which takes place August 19-20 and will feature 40 vendors offering in excess of 50,000 titles, has registered buyers from the the UK, Canada Australia, Pakistan, India, Holland, Ireland, France, the Philippines, Nigeria, and as far away as Korea, Japan and China. Growth for remainder books in the Asian markets in particular has been especially strong in recent years, as demand has shot up for affordable English-language materials.

International buyers have become increasingly important to the U.S. shows for a number of reasons. “First,” says May, “the number of buyers for book outlets in the U.S. has diminished rapidly over the past several years. Peaking at around 5,000 bookstores in the early to mid 90’s, today, there are less than 1,500 legitimate, independent bookstores in the United States. Many of the 1,500 are less than financially viable. Many of the 1,500 might struggle to put together a $200 order, and with bargain book vendors selling on a non-returnable basis, many of the smaller independents just can’t make themselves take that risk. Therefore, with few exceptions, the independent booksellers have become less of a player over the years.”

In contrast, international buyers typically make large purchases at US shows. Why? For starters, they are typically buying for several stores and several months when they come to the major bargain book shows in the U.S. “So, when they come here, they are buying a quarterly supply of product and filling a freight container to reduce their shipping costs,” explained May. “A container will hold up to 40 skids double stacked and can contain as many as 60,000 to 70,000 books. When the international buyers come to a show, they may buy five skids from one vendor, three from another and six from yet another until they have a container filled. This helps them keep their freight cost down around the 10-cents-a-book range.”

What’s more the international buyers have traditionally considered “good pays” in an environment where it is more and more difficult to find reliable customers. “Most start out on a pro forma basis,” said May, “but after establishing a relationship with a vendor, they will typically be approved for credit.”

In addition, GABBS is featuring several foreign remainder vendors who will be selling locally, including Entertainment Liquidators, Fairmount Books and Readon Publications, all of Canada, and Caxton Publishing Group, Columbia Marketing, Fanshaw Books, PR Books and Symposium Books Wholesale, all from the UK.

“While the majority of the vendors and bargain book buyers come from the United States, there’s strong interest in remainders and other bargain books in the rest of the world,” said Larry May, co-owner of the Great American Bargain Book Show. “It costs more for the international buyers and sellers to travel to the show, and they would not come if they were not making money by attending.”

David Crane of UK’s Columbia Marketing noted bargain books are gaining traction with consumers as a result of the stagnant economy. “Because of the Internet and the current tight economy, people have gotten used to paying discounted prices for books.”

May, who contributed a detailed piece for Publishing Perspectives earlier this year on the remainder book market, continues to tout the profitability of remainders when compared with new titles. “If a bookseller can buy stock for $1 per copy, and then sell it for $5, that’s a 400 percent profit,” he said, “adding much higher than that enjoyed when the bookseller pays $15.00 at wholesale for a book that retails for $24.95. That’s only a 40 percent profit.”

DISCUSS: Are publishers too quick to remainder titles?

REGISTER: For The Great American Bargain Book Show which takes place year August 21 & 22 in Boston, Massachusetts.

READ: Our coverage from last year of the remainder book market: “Remainders still a great way to make money.”

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.