Suitability of books as fuel called into question
By Richie Parentis – Straight from sixth-form to your national newspaper!
Long a topic of contention in the bookselling world, the practice of ‘re-listing’ is now under wider scrutiny for its role in the fuel shortages that have gripped Britain over the past couple of weeks.
As coal and gas supplies dwindled Pensioners and lower income families resorted to using books as fuel, only to find more than a third of estimated book supplies were drop-shipped re-listed phantom stock, totally unsuited for burning.
Re-listing is the process whereby an online bookseller lists another dealer’s book as their own and, in the event of a sale, simply orders from the original seller with the buyer’s details. Thus the innocent consumer searching, say, for Heidi’s Bedtime Stories: Erotic Quickies for Men and Women, at popular sites such as AbeBooks.com or Amazon, may see pages and pages of copies that, tragically, do not exist. Something people up and down Britain have just learnt the hard way.
The government has tried to deflect criticism for misjudging the supply of books. A statement issued today from the Department of Trade and Industry read: ‘We were informed that there were enough unsold copies of Yellow Dog and Shalimar the Clown to see us through the winter. We had no reason at all to doubt this.’
Though most have gone to ground, I was able to meet with a re-lister and get her side of the story. Joanne Downs has been re-listing and drop-shipping for the past two years but is now considering a change of career. Whilst she admits some responsibility for the crisis, she believes re-listers are being demonised. ‘I hold my hands up but people need to understand that we’re suffering like everyone else. We don’t have any books either, which is sort of the whole point.’