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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?

Remainder marks on the text block of books

What is a remaindered book?

A remaindered book is a book that has been returned to the publisher by the bookseller.  When a bookstore has a book that just isn’t selling, they want 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.

The publisher gives the book 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 can I identify a remainder mark?

The publisher that is marking the returned books use a number of different methods to mark their books.  Some may use rubber stamps, felt-tip markers, or even spray-on dyes.  The mark is most often on a book’s bottom edge, on the text block near the spine.

Some of the fancier examples 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?

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


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