One in four new books are pulped — French startup MyFairBooks aims to save them

In France, an estimated 140 million new books are 'pulped' every year. Almost one in four books are destroyed because their sales don't meet projections. Part of the problem is the battle for shelf space. With a massive number of titles released each year, competition is fierce. Books can be removed from a bookstore after a matter of weeks and returned to publishers or distributors for a one-way trip to the pulping machine.

A French startup aims to reduce that waste by giving books a second chance. An online bookseller on a mission, MyFairBook has a reading committee that selects titles and orders modest quantities from publishers. The books are presented thematically, each brought back into the spotlight with a pitch, a description of its mood and subject, alongside press coverage and reader reviews.

MyFairBook, launched in October 2022, hopes to sell 10,000 books in its first year. Making up for a lower sales volume — no bestsellers on offer, after all — it earns a higher cut from publishers than bookstores normally do.

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As MyFairBooks points out, most books don't have a best-by-date, and saving them benefits authors, publishers and the environment. While the startup might only be able to rescue a fraction of new books from being dissolved into paper porridge, its mere existence brings attention to a hugely wasteful practice.

Consumers, meanwhile, get access to a highly curated selection of novels that aren't on everyone else's nightstand. And that exclusivity is paired with the feel-good factor of saving a great read from being destroyed. Publishing isn't the only industry with overlooked and undersold products. Time to unearth those hidden gems and target an appreciative audience?

Innovation of the day

Spotted by: Liesbeth den Toom

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