How many of us are inclined to give publishers a little leeway when it comes to what products they choose for their production? Publishing is a low-margin industry across the board, so if the businessmen have to cut a few corners here and there in order to bring us the books we want at a reasonable price, shouldn’t we cut them a little slack? Should we still cut them that slack if we learn, as MOBYLIVES (an excellent source of publishing news) reported on this report (covered in the San Francisco Chronicle) that some of the paper comes from virgin Indonesian pulp?
But what we’re talking about in specific is children’s books from publishers across the board, and the children’s market across all industries is unhappily tainted with reports of corner-cutting. Perhaps we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a children’s book printed in China used that same ink mentioned in The Name of the Rose or a cheaper variant with the same implications. I suppose, all things considered, we’re lucky the books aren’t printed with lead ink!
Now I haven’t done the research on this, but I can’t really believe that the use of Indonesian pulp is an unsolvable problem. Any given forest is a renewable resource, and I don’t have many reservations about using wood, especially in the creation of paper. But I work under the assumption that if an action can be a sustainable practice then it should be. Is Indonesian paper cheaper because of the cost of labor? Then pay them to make a sustainable tree farm.
I’m not even advocating bringing the work back into the States, although perhaps I should. Keep it cheap to keep your margins, but people will pay for books that don’t promote deforestation. Make a cross-industry marketing initiative with a little foil sticker and a cute banana-eating monkey with proud wording that says, “No virgin pulp!” (It’ll be about as true of your copy as your pages, but that’s off topic.) On the other hand, if you just get your jollies from cutting down rainforests in order to print a book about conservation for children, well, there’s really nothing anyone can do for you.