As a follow-up to Andrew Wheelers excellent post about bookstore economics and why some indie bookstores deserve to die, novelist J. Steven York posted his own thoughtful examination of how one local indie bookstore in his own neighborhood died because the owners literally loved their books too much: they refused to return books or strip out old paperbacks for store credit.
One of the things that York sheds light on in his post is the very odd publishing practice of "stripping".
For those of you who have never worked in a bookstore or a retailer that sells magazines and books, "stripping" is the practice of tearing off the cover of a magazine or mass market book to return to the publisher for credit. (Newspapers, on the other hand, usually only have their mastheads stripped off and returned.) The idea is that the retailer returns the cover and receives credit for the entire book as a return (usually about 48% to 52% of the cover price). Returning only the cover saves the cost of postage and freight fuel, but is terribly wasteful of paper. Theoretically the remainder of the book or magazine is then recycled or destroyed, but in reality what usually happens is that the books are donated to hospitals, prisons, or schools. Sometimes the store leaves the mutilated books in a "Free Books" box out front. And sometimes they just get tossed.
Not all books get stripped, by the way: only mass-market and some digest-sized kids chapter books. Trade paper and hardcovers are returned whole, restocked and then resold later. You'd think that publishers would want the stock back in order to resell it, right? Wrong. It actually costs more for the publisher - in terms of time and labor - to have their warehouse folks physically restock the books, especially if the returns are not for full, unopened cartons.
In any case, I encourage you to read York's entire post.