The Green Choice for Librarians

We have always considered purchasing BTSB books the environmentally friendly choice. Because being kind to the environment is more and more important these days, we have been trying even harder to make our product and our company “greener”.

First of all, just the concept of making our books more durable is very eco-friendly. When a library needs to buy ten Harry Potter books to get the circulations they could get from one BTSB Harry Potter book, that is ten times as much paper, board, and energy expended needlessly. Since one tree makes about one hundred books (probably less for Harry Potter) this can add up to quite a grove of trees in just one library.

The material going into a BTSB book is generally more environmentally friendly than that which goes into other books. We use a cotton thread to put our books together with instead of a chemically based adhesive. The adhesives we do use in our process are biodegradable.

The cover material we use is also primarily cotton, rather than lamination that is petroleum-based and non-biodegradable. The binders board we use is made from almost 100% recycled paper products. Virtually all of the trimmings and scrap that we are left with in our binding process are hauled away to be recycled into other products.

Our business model, although it was not a consideration at the time it was conceived, is more energy efficient than our competitors. We rely on superior binding quality and service to sell our books and have only a small sales force, while our main competitors rely on large sales forces of high-pressure sales people to sell their books. This means they each have eight to ten times as many cars on the road burning gasoline as we have.

Of course much of the responsibility for the environmental impact of books rests with the publisher. A key decision is in their choice of paper. In general, the more recycled, unbleached and uncoated their paper is, the more eco-friendly it is. The type of inks used can also make a difference. To find out more about the choices publishers can make go to Any encouragement librarians can give publishers to make good environmental choices will be helpful.

BTSB encourages publishers to sell us their books as printed pages before the publisher’s binding has been added. This saves consuming a significant amount of material in the publisher’s binding � the boards, cover, endpapers and spine inlay.

Perhaps the most helpful thing the publishing industry could do is go to a more print-on-demand business model. The current practice of large print runs in which often 20% of the books are returned to the publisher from the bookstores and thrown into the pulper is tremendously costly and wasteful. Prebinders such as BTSB, unlike other book jobbers, do not return books to the publisher.

There are certainly ways our customers can help us be more environmentally friendly. With so many people using our BTSB Bookstore to select and order books online, we now offer to stop mailing our printed catalog to our customers. Many people have taken us up on this offer and we are saving quite a few trees and a lot of gas in the Postal Service trucks.

Electronic ordering itself is going to save reams of paper, both on the customer’s end and on our end. Downloading MARC records can save a lot of diskettes and CD-ROMs. Although we are happy to laminate dust jackets if that is what the customer wants, our super attractive new covers make it feasible to skip the expense of laminating and keep all that plastic from eventually ending up in the landfill.

Thinking “green” is imperative for a business these days, although there are always tradeoffs to be made with cost, quality and practicality. We will strive to improve the eco-friendliness of our product and business with the cooperation of our materials suppliers, publishers and librarians.