If Richard Charkin says it, it’s probably good sense, good business, and controversial. The issue of book returns is virtually unknown to the book-buying public, and it isn’t much of an issue in the reference book publishing sector, at least for Berkshire, but it’s a huge business problem with considerable environmental impact. Nice to see some movement on this, thanks to Borders and Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio. Here’s an article, An End to Book Returns?.” No surprise that Richard is quoted, pointing out that New Zealand, a country that doesn’ t have returns, has a particularly healthy and lively publishing industry and reading culture.

On the subject of publishing’s environmental footprint, last week (Earth Week 2009) seemed the right moment to post for downloading two enlightening articles from our forthcoming illustrated Berkshire Encyclopedia of China. These articles are written by scientists but edited to be accessible to the general reader. They tackle some of the most pressing issues related to climate change: “Export Emissions” and “International Cooperation.” The former was written by Christopher Weber of Carnegie Mellon University and the latter, on “International Cooperation,” by Mark Levine, who leads the China Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Click here to read. These are just a taste of the Encyclopedia’s 800 articles, which range across all aspects of China’s past, present, and future.

And sustainability has influenced our publishing about China.Berkshire chose a “green” print house to handle the Encyclopedia of China and worked to ensure that production of this massive publication (5 volumes, 2,800 pages) has minimal environmental impact while meeting the quality expectations of our customers. The Encyclopedia of China is being printed on 30% post-consumer recycled paper in a chlorine-free process. An Eco-Audit sponsored by The Green Press Initiative shows the savings that result:
Sustainability page in Berkshire Encyclopedia of China

  • 138 trees (40’ tall and 6-8” diameter)
  • 117 million BTUs of total energy
  • 12,219 pounds of greenhouse gases
  • 50,717 gallons of wastewater
  • 6,513 pounds of solid waste

In addition to plans for a China Green series, Berkshire’s next release is The Spirit of Sustainability, Volume 1 of the Encyclopedia of Sustainability (10 volumes in total, 2009-2011). It’s in production now and will be available in early July. We take sustainability to heart: Berkshire is in the process of reviewing our editorial and IT systems, our marketing and distribution, and our travel—and we’ll be covering these topics and much more in Volume 2, The Business of Sustainability, September 2009. Click here to see sample pages of The Spirit of Sustainability.

An FYI: Pre-publication pricing for the Encyclopedia of China extended until 5pm EST on Monday 4 May. Order today to get the discounted price, US$595. List price from 5 May is US$675.