Through RISE Bookselling, a three-year EU co-funded project run by the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF), EIBF produced a comprehensive research paper investigating book returns systems in seven countries around the world. This paper, published in April 2023, is the first volume in a series of research papers called Industry Insights. Read more about the Industry Insights research paper on returns below.

The possibility of returning unsold books for credit or refund is often considered an essential part of the bookselling business. This is because it allows booksellers to minimise financial losses while still allowing them to invest in a wide offer of books for their customers. With that said, returns can present bookshops with various kinds of challenges, e.g. additional workload and costs, as well as concerns regarding the environmental impact of returning books.

The Industry Insights paper on returns aims to answer to these concerns by examining different kinds of book returns processes, shedding light on the national differences in the approach to returning books, identifying challenges that arise from unsold or returned books, as well as the environmental impact of these returns. Finally, it explores best practices and innovative solutions to drive down return rates. 

This first volume of the Industry Insights series is an interview-based study which gathers the expertise of national booksellers associations, booksellers and other industry representatives from seven countries across the world: Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. The countries were chosen to give a broad geographical representation, as well as showcase different types of existing return models. Since the returns process is often similar, but rarely identical, across national borders, juxtaposing different systems and examining their inherent efficiencies and challenges can bring valuable lessons and insights to light.

EIBF presenting the RISE Industry Insights paper at the London Book Fair

On April 19, the EIBF Policy team, Daniel Martín Brennan and Tora Åsling, presented the RISE Bookselling Industry Insights research paper at the London Book Fair’s Sustainability Hub.


What are Industry Insights?

RISE Industry Insights is a series of research papers that looks into priority topics for the bookselling sector. They give insights into key issues, policy reforms and external initiatives that affect the bookselling sector. In addition, they provide network members with tools to engage with relevant political stakeholders, culture sector professionals and private sector representatives to ensure that their priorities are adequately upheld and supported.

The first Industry Insight volume on the topic of returns was produced by Daniel Martín Brennan and Tora Åsling, Policy Advisor and Policy Assistant respectively at the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF).


What is RISE Bookselling?

‘Resilience, Innovation and Sustainability for the Enhancement of Bookselling’, or RISE Bookselling in short, aims to upscale, reinforce and maximise the capacity and resilience of the European bookselling sector. The project helps bookshops innovate and stay up to date with new trends and technologies to ensure their long-term sustainability. This three-year programme is organised by EIBF and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. 


Download the full Industry Insights paper on book returns below or via the the RISE Bookselling website here.