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Book Terminology

What is a Remainder Mark?

What is a remainder mark, how can you identify them, and what do they mean to collectors and book-buyers?

Occasionally you might find an unfamiliar phrase when browsing used and rare book listings on Biblio. We often get questions from customers who ask, “What is a remainder mark,” or “What is a remaindered book?”.

remaindered book is a book that was returned to the publisher by the bookseller. When a bookstore has a book that just isn’t selling, they eventually need to get it off of their shelves and make room for a more popular title. The bookstore can send all of their copies of that book back to the publisher and receive a refund.

a stack of three hardcover books, turned to the camera to show that they each have a remainder mark on their textblock. The marks in this example are made by red or black markers.

This example of remaindered hardcover books is from the IOBA article on remaindered books.

Once they get them back, the publisher gives those books a remainder mark and re-sells the book at a lower price to outlet stores or other booksellers. This process allows the publishers to recoup some of their printing costs and the mark identifies these books so that they cannot be returned to the publisher for yet another refund.

Generally, only hardcovers and trade paperbacks are remaindered, while mass-market paperbacks tend to be destroyed.

How do I identify a remainder mark?

A publisher can use many different methods to mark their books. Remainder marks can be made with rubber stamps, felt-tip markers, or even spray-on dyes. The mark is most often on the bottom edge of the book, on the text block near the spine.

Some of the fancier examples of remainder marks in the industry include:

  • Ace Fantasy:  a capital “B” on one edge.
  • Simon & Schuster: a stamp of its logo, “the sowing man.”
  • Random House: the icon of a little house.
  • Doubleday and Delacort: a spray dye on the top and bottom edges, which made the book look like it was spray painted.
  • Putnam: a capital ‘P’ ink stamp.

These aren’t the only marks that identify remaindered books. Some publishers just write a simple ‘R’ on the front inside cover, and others will stamp the title page. Older paperbacks that were remaindered may have a hole punched through the front cover or a scalloped-cut off corner to identify it.

So….what’s the big deal about remainder marks?

Remainder marks are no big deal if you are purchasing a book as a reading copy. However, if you are purchasing the book for a collection or to re-sell, bear in mind that remainder marks are considered to be a defect by most collectors, except in very rare cases.

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