"In 1853 Thoreau was informed by his publishers that A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers had sold 219 copies since its publication four years before, so they send him the remainder. He wrote, 'I now have a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.'In a small way I can relate. A few weeks ago I heard from InterVarsity Press that sales of Through Her Eyes, published a dozen years ago in 2004, had finally slowed enough to make some changes in their marketing and distribution of this book. Unlike Thoreau's publisher, IVP is sending a modest bill to cover the cost and shipping of my "remainders."
But because a few other things have changed since Thoreau's day, they're still going to keep the book in print. Paper copies may not be worth the warehouse space, but it costs the publisher nothing to keep selling it as an ebook. For those who do want paper copies, "Print on Demand" (POD) volumes will be produced; that's more reasonable than ever before. So even though it's been remaindered, the book will remain in print. Nice.
The publisher told me they still had 210 copies. I spoke for 160. I'm having a case of 40 sent to me and have asked colleagues at Pioneers to stash several cases more so I can pick them up as needed. I'll keep schlepping copies along when I speak or teach, as I've been doing for years. But now I can cut the price in half to $5/each with no qualms about giving them away for free when that seems appropriate.
A year or two ago I had the dwindling royalties redirected to Pioneers as well. The cost of having Turbo Tax submit the paperwork to pay the government its share had exceeded the royalty income.
Staying in print for twelve years is pretty good for a book of this sort. I'm happy that there's still some audience for it and that the publisher has found a way to keep it available.
Thoreau might find it some consolation that these and other dynamics have returned Concord and Merrimack to print, too.