This post was originally published on March 24, 2011, and updated on March 12, 2020.
Understanding the terminology, jargon, terms of art, vocabulary, 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.
What You Will Learn In This Post
1. You will learn the physical differences between a book 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.
Most of us involved with self-publishing will never 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, vocabulary, 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” 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 it will allow being 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.” (Tweet)
Each publisher has its own rules and guidelines about which books can be stripped. Stripping off the cover of a book and sending the cover back to the publisher without the body of the book will significantly reduce postage costs.
It’s much less costly to send back a bunch of book covers than to send back an entire box of books. After the cover is stripped off the book, the rest of the remaining book is supposed to be destroyed by the bookseller.
“Non-strippable” books are 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.
Who Is Involved With, Concerned About, And Affected by, Stripping Books?
Stripping books is something self-publishers will never need to be involved in. Strippable and non-strippable books are something that the large publishers, book distributors, and retail bookstores are engaged in.
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 quickly learn that bookstores are the worst place to display and sell your books – and doing so can very promptly bankrupt your little publishing company.
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 them, and some will be empty.
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 typically see the empty triangle on the trade paperbacks and hardcover books, which are more expensive.
The publishers use this triangle symbol to make it visually more straightforward for the retailers and distributors to avoid making the mistake of stripping a book that shouldn’t be stripped. You’ll never need to display this triangle symbol in your self-published books.
Now you’re an expert on strippable and non-strippable books! Don’t you now feel intellectually more robust and more self-confident as a self-publisher? Well, you should. Understanding every inch and crevice of an industry you’re involved with will make you feel, look, and sound like the successful professional 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.
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?
— Joel Friedlander (@JFbookman) October 2, 2020
I wonder how this practice developed. Hmm … ? Strippable Books Vs. Non-Strippable Books: A Guide For Self-Publishers https://t.co/xbLX4Deg9H via @jckunzjr #justsaying #publishing #bookstores #indieauthors #JustAsking
— Debbi Mack (@debbimack) March 29, 2020
Hashtags: #selfpublishing #bookmarketing