Strippable Books Vs. Non-Strippable Books: A Guide For Self-Publishers

This post was originally published on March 24, 2011, and updated on March 12, 2020.

Synopsis
Understanding the terminology, jargon, terms-of-art, lingo, and slang, of the book publishing industry as a whole, can only help us become better and more successful at self-publishing. Here is a discussion of the terms “strippable” and “non-strippable” as they relate to printed books, and their covers.

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What You Will Learn In This Post
1. You will learn the physical differences between a book that is considered strippable, and one that is not.
2. You will learn why a particular book is considered strippable, or it isn’t.
3. You will learn who is concerned and affected by these designations.

Thank you to Joel Friedlander of the BookDesigner.com for linking to this article from his website Carnival Of The Indies #114

Thank you to Joel Friedlander of the BookDesigner.com for linking to this article from his website Carnival Of The Indies #114

Introduction
Almost none of us that are involved with self-publishing will ever need to deal with books that are strippable or not. But, despite that fact, we still need to understand the book industry in its entirety. Understanding the terminology, jargon, terms-of-art, lingo, and slang, of the book publishing industry as a whole, can only help us become better and more successful at self-publishing.

Here is a discussion of the terms “strippable” and “non-strippable” as they relate to printed books, and their covers.

Strippable Defined
“Strippable” simply means that a book’s cover can be torn off, or stripped off, by the book retailer or distributor, and then sent back to the book publisher for a credit or refund. The publisher tells the book retailers and distributors which books that it will allow to be stripped, and which books cannot be stripped.

“Understanding the terminology, jargon, terms-of-art, lingo, and slang, of the book publishing industry as a whole, can only help us become better and more successful at self-publishing.” (CLICK to tweet this quote)

Each publisher has its own rules and guidelines about which books can be stripped. By stripping off the cover of a book, and sending the cover back to the publisher, without the body of the book, postage costs will be greatly reduced.

Obviously, it’s much less costly to send back a bunch of book covers than it is to send back a box of full books. After the cover is stripped off the book, the rest of the remaining book is supposed to be destroyed.

Title page of a mass-market paperback book. The paragraph in the middle discusses the cover and what happens when a book is stripped.

Title page of a mass-market paperback book. The paragraph in the middle discusses the cover and what happens when a book is stripped.

Non-Strippable Defined
“Non-strippable” books are just the opposite of “strippable”. “Non-strippable” means that a book cannot be returned to the publisher for a credit or refund unless the book is complete, with the cover intact.

Retail Returns Guidelines for Baker & Taylor

Retail Returns Guidelines for Baker & Taylor

Who Is Involved With, Concerned About, And Affected by, Stripping Books?
Stripping books is something that self-publishers will probably never need to be involved with. Strippable and non-strippable books are something that the large publishers, book distributors, and retail bookstores are involved with.

Strippable Book

Strippable Book

The large publishers are forced by the retailers and distributors to accept returns. Retailers feel that it’s too risky for them to put a book in their stores without having the option of sending the book back for a credit or refund.

Distributors feel that it’s too risky for them to receive many thousands of copies of a book from a publisher without having the option of sending the books back for a credit or refund. The large publishers accept returns because they are dependent on the book retailers and distributors for their financial survival.

As a small self-publisher, we generally don’t want, or shouldn’t want, our books in bookstores. Having your book displayed at a bookstore might be good for your ego, but not for your bank account. Once you get involved with self-publishing, you’ll learn very quickly that bookstores are the worst place to display and sell your books – and doing so can very quickly bankrupt your little publishing company.

Mass-market paperback on left side, with the triangle and the letter S indicating that the book is strippable; Trade paperback on right side with triangle with no letter S indicating that the book is not strippable. Also notice the price and size differences. In addition, the mass-market book has a UPC barcode; and the trade has a Bookland/EAN barcode.

Mass-market paperback on left side, with the triangle and the letter S indicating that the book is strippable; Trade paperback on right side with triangle with no letter S indicating that the book is not strippable. Also notice the price and size differences. In addition, the mass-market book has a UPC barcode; and the trade has a Bookland/EAN barcode.

The Triangle With An “S” and Without An “S”
Spend some time in a big bookstore and you will notice that some of the books have a small triangle next to the EAN barcode on the back cover. Some triangles will have the letter “S” inside it, and some will be empty.

Non-Strippable Book

Non-Strippable Book

The “S” designates that that book is strippable. A triangle without an “S” means that the book is not strippable. You will generally see a triangle with an “S” on mass-market paperbacks. These are generally the smaller less expensive books. You’ll generally see the empty triangle on the trade paperbacks and hard-cover books, which are the more expensive books.

The publishers use this triangle symbol as a means to make it visually easier for the retailers and distributors to avoid making the mistake of stripping a book that shouldn’t be stripped. On your self-published books you’ll never need to put this triangle symbol on your books.

Conclusion
Now you’re an expert on strippable and non-strippable books! Don’t you now feel intellectually stronger and more self-confident as a self-publisher? Well, you should. Understanding every inch and crevice of an industry that you’re involved with will make you feel, look, and sound like a successful professional that you aspire to be.

It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, to truly become a success at anything. Book publishing and self-publishing are no different. One step at a time, one day at a time, one term at a time.

Retail Returns Guidelines for Random House

Retail Returns Guidelines for Random House

Questions For Us To Think About And Discuss
1. If you have ever worked in a bookstore, did you get to tear off the covers of the strippable books that were getting destroyed?
2. How often did you need to do this?
Let me know in the comments section below.

This article also appears in Joel Friedlander’s online publication Carnival of the Indies – Issue #114

Thank you for reading this. I hope you found it helpful. Please share it.

Hashtags: #selfpublishing #bookmarketing

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About Joseph C. Kunz, Jr.

I help make it easier for anyone with a passion for a subject – and a desire to help others by sharing their experience and knowledge – to self-publish nonfiction books that will help them build authority and credibility, establish them as thought leaders, and help them make more money. Kunz is a husband, father of twins, and the co-founder of Dickson Keanaghan, LLC, a medical training and publishing company near New York City.
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