Many publishing professionals care deeply about the health of society and the planet. Our industry faces many issues, but one that often feels too big to conquer is book publishing’s contribution to the climate crisis. Overprinting, shipping inefficiencies, deforestation—all this and more are daily realities of making and selling books.
It forces us to ask the same question we ask about so many other shortcomings: how can we make this better?
In an attempt to provide answers, especially for small to medium independent publishers, Portland State University’s publishing program partnered with PubWest and the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) to study how book publishing production and distribution can be made more sustainable. Rachel Done Cubillas, a graduate of the PSU program and one of the paper’s authors, talks with us about the study’s findings about how we can change the status quo and do right by the environment.
The study in question was authored by Rachel Done, Rebecca Gordon, Megan Jessop, Stephanie Johnson Lawson, Alexa Schmidt, Rylee Warner, Glorimar Del Rio, Sarah Bradley, Alexandra Burns, Ivory Fields, Alexander Halbrook, Jill Bowen, Katherine Flitsch, Amanda Hines, Megan Vader Bongolan, Alexandra Magel, and Frances Fragela. It was supervised by Dr. Rachel Noorda.
The episode addresses the following research questions:
- What needs to be done to make book printing truly carbon neutral by 2050?
- What does efficient and cost-effective delivery of print books look like going forward?
- What chinks in the book industry’s armor were most exposed due to the pandemic?
- What’s stopping the industry from embracing POD as the preferred means for printing non-illustrated, black-and-white trade books?
- How can the book industry decrease the returns rate for books sold into trade channels from an average of 30% to an average of 15% or less?
Rachel Done Cubillas (they/them) is currently a freelancing publishing professional, with focuses on writing, design, marketing, and project management—basically a little bit of everything. They are set to graduate with their MA in Book Publishing and Comics Studies Certificate from PSU this coming June. They love exploring new topics and skills, as well as spending time with their menagerie of a family.