I have too many books. It’s a first-world problem, I know, and I should probably accept that I am not going to re-read many of them and sell or give them away to a good home. But I am unlikely to do this. In the meantime, my floor-to-ceiling bookshelves overflow, taking up valuable square footage in my modest townhouse.
Amazon, you can solve this problem. Here’s how.
You already have a strong partnership with UPS, which you use for shipping. Make another deal with them. There are UPS Stores all around the country. If I bring a dead-tree book to any UPS Store, they should recycle the book for me and give me a credit for the Kindle version of that same book. The cost of handling or recycling the book can be split between me and Amazon.
This is a win-win-win-win proposition.
I win because I have fewer physical books cluttering up my house, while retaining access to my library.
Amazon wins because more consumers will have large Kindle libraries. This will create an incentive to make future purchases in the Kindle ecosystem.
Book publishers win because when used books are recycled, the market for used books shrinks. Physical books are durable and resalable; converting to Kindle books solves the durable goods problem and makes publisher profits higher because they would sell more copies.
UPS wins because they get a small fee-per-book that comes out of the gains to the other parties.
When I talk about this idea, I find that the main objection I get is an emotional one: “Isn’t it wasteful to destroy used books?” people ask. And the answer is not really. No information is destroyed by recycling the book, because Kindle books are a pretty good substitute. And if the book were not destroyed, then the publishers would never go for the deal, and we would be stuck in a more wasteful situation, one in which a significant fraction of real estate goes toward book storage.
Amazon, you started the ebook revolution. Now take it to the next level by helping everyone complete the transition.