Used & Only Slightly Abused—Our New Used Book Shop

We could build office cubicles for ourselves with these boxes, but we’d rather sell the books inside to happy readers.

Book publishing is a peculiar business. In a practice pretty much unique to the industry, publishers allow bookstores to return unsold product for full credit. The returns policy has its roots in the Great Depression when desperate publishers convinced booksellers to take a chance on stocking more copies or the work of an unknown author by offering to take back any unsold books, no risk to the shopkeeper.  This NPR story does a great job of summing up the practice.

The books come in, the books go out. Sort of like that song about the worms. Generally, they come back in good condition, but we often receive back copies that just aren’t in a condition to be sold to our online customers or sent back out to bookstores. For the past few years, Watermark Publishing has had a discount table each year at the Hawai‘i Book & Music Festival filled with nothing but our store returns and “hurts” (the term for books damaged in the normal course of business), offering them up to the public at rock bottom prices. The popularity of the “Publisher’s Hurts Sale Table” at the annual festival has prompted us to open up a new section of our online store that offers these returned copies for sale year-round.

As can be expected, the books in our newly-launched used book shop show signs of wear and tear. While they’re technically not “used” — they’ve never been owned by anyone else — well, they are a little abused. The damage ranges from barely noticeable (minor scuffs or smooshed corners; damage to a dust jacket that doesn’t affect the book itself) to more serious defects (torn, bent or loose pages; crushed or bent spines; peeling corners; pricing stickers that won’t come off). All copies are marked on either or both the top outer edge or over the barcode to indicate that the book is a hurt copy and cannot be returned to a store. Discounts in our used book shop range from 60-85% off the cover price. Additional discounts, such as coupon offers, do not apply.

Used books return policy: All books sold in the used book shop are as-is condition; by purchasing a hurt copy you accept that we will send you a book with the type of damage described in the product summary. It may be in better or in slightly worse condition than you anticipated. We have done our best to provide photographs and describe the general type of damage the copy you receive may have sustained, but we cannot catalog each copy, nor can we provide you with a written description of a specific copy’s condition. We will accept returns only under the following conditions:

  • Damage to the book does not match the store description (e.g. If you receive a copy with unbound pages, but the description only indicated minor scuffing)
  • Pages completely missing (or you may opt to receive PDFs or photocopies of the original pages at no additional charge)
  • Mold or other decay damage (we will not knowingly send out a moldy book; we give the books a quick inspection, but on occasion stores have returned books that sustained water damage not immediately apparent)
  • All returns claims must be transacted within 14 days of purchase
  • All returns must be pre-authorized; contact us at with your order number and reason for return prior to shipping back any books
  • Returns must be sent back at the expense of the buyer, with a tracking number (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.)
  • No refunds on shipping charges
  • If any of these policies make you uncomfortable, particularly the idea of receiving a slightly-damaged book sight-unseen that you can’t return, please do not purchase through our used book shop. Sign up for our newsletter (you’ll receive an instant coupon via email for 30% off) and purchase a new copy instead.

We do not purchase used books for our shop. We have enough of our own, thanks!

Browse the Used Book Shop

Crushed corners, worn dust jackets, marks and dog-eared pages typify the kind of damage on “hurt” books.


Posted on July 29, 2011, in News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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