Leading UK daily The Guardian, which still enjoys a leading reputation for its cultural and literary coverage, from a firmly left-of-center perspective, recently shared a shot of the review delivery at the Guardian Books department. “Behind the scenes: everyday we receive these bags full of new books,” declared the tweet, showing four large Royal Mail postbags bulging with books.

Yes, The Guardian does carry such weight with UK publishers and authors. But you’d think they if anyone would be sensitive to the ecological impact of all that woodpulp being thrust into their hands day after day.

I’m not the only one to look to the e-book revolution as the nemesis of the book remainder business, that embarrassing standing testament to the inefficiencies and poor forecasting capabilities of the publishing majors. But e-books might also be a welcome antidote to waste and excess among publishers’ marketing departments.

Last time I requested a review copy of an e-book from a (small, independent) publisher, I was emailed three editions of the same title in different formats, plus two other books I hadn’t asked for that the publisher thought would interest me anyway. For the smaller houses, this is clearly going to be a massive savings on their postal bills. And although I can’t resort to the time-honored practice of selling the review copies to supplement the fee for the review (yes, some writers are that poor), I get saved a bunch of shelf space this way as well.

Perhaps key review departments like Guardian Books should set a precedent and example by asking publishers to submit review copies as e-books wherever possible. They would save trees, postal bills, and the knees and elbows of their staff who daily trip over all those heavy postbags.

“Sorry! We weren’t bragging we promise!!” tweeted Guardian Books later, as another tweeter protested “massive jealousy.”

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Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


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