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What’s the Story With All These Cheapo New Books?

Updated 23 Jul 2020 – By Helena Varkkey

Everyone loves a good deal, right? Especially when it comes to books. 

Books are not exactly cheap. One normal paperback novel pun can be like almost RM50, kan? And let’s not even start about that latest New York Times bestseller in hardcover!

But, we’re sure you have noticed that you can get books on the cheap at certain places in Malaysia. And no, we’re not talking about those yellowed oldies from second-hand bookstores. We’re talking about brand spanking new books, okay. At like 70% to 90% off the original price. 

Some bookstores have their entire stock perpetually on hyper-slashed prices. Other major chains have big bargain bins right alongside their gila mahal new releases or throw epic warehouse sales every few months. 


We're not complaining. Good for the wallet lah! But...

... have you ever wondered: “Why so cheap meh?” Are the pirated? Are they defective? Is it all too good to be true?"

Well, since our dear old Kay Ell has been declared UNESCO’s World Book Capital 2020, we at Loanstreet would like to do our small part to encourage all Malaysian to develop good reading habits.

So here’s a little story about one of the little-known quirks of the publishing world, one that will help you save some cold hard cash.


Say hello to remaindered books!

Don’t worry, these weirdly cheap books aren’t riddled with typos or missing a chapter. 

You see, publishers generally don’t hire bomohs to tell them how many copies of a book will be sold. So, when they decide on a print run, they pretty much just agak-agak lah. Well, they do use complicated algorithms to help them decide, but it’s not a perfect science!

More often than not, there’ll be unsold books collecting dust in their warehouse or bookstores all over the world. 

Publishers usually allow booksellers to return unsold books for a refund, normally after 12 months on the shelf. So publishers, stuck with all these brand new books, are faced with a choice: to recycle them for next to nothing, or to give them a second chance at life before they turn into pulp. 

Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Even books!

So, these books usually get resold at a supermassive discount back to bookstores who then offer them to customers at super cheap prices! Yay, everybody wins!


Wait, what’s the catch?

Alright, alright, alright, there is a catch!

If you’re the OCD type who still won’t let your best friend touch any of your books because you haven’t forgiven her for ‘accidentally’ breaking the spine of your favourite Sweet Valley High book ten years ago, remaindered books are not for you. 

See, publishers need to keep track of which books have been returned and which haven’t. So, if you take a close look at the base of a remaindered book, you’ll usually find a small mark. It could be a dot or line done with a marker pen, a single letter, a publisher’s stamp, or even some spray paint. 

This way, books can’t go through the system again to be ‘accidentally’ returned to their publishers. Basically, cannot tipu already, lah.
Hence, remaindered books are not in ‘pristine’ condition. But come on, whoever looks at the base of their books, right?  

So it’s all good! The publisher makes some money, the bookseller makes some money, and you save a lot of money!


Not so fast! Are you sure E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y wins?  

Well, if you want to be sticky about it, the authors (yep, those people who wrote the book) usually don’t ‘win’. Not in the traditional sense anyway. 

Authors usually make money from royalties, which is a certain percentage of the price of every book sold. However, remaindered books biasanya are not included in such royalty agreements. 

Which means that the author of that remaindered book that your holding got nothing – nada – zilch – for all their hard work writing the darn thing. 

That seems pretty harsh, right?


Are you saying I shouldn’t buy remaindered books then?

Not at all! On the contrary, you’ll be surprised to know that many authors don’t mind all that much if their books get remaindered.

Hear us out.  

Imagine that you’re browsing in a bookstore when you come across a book with an interesting cover, title, and blurb, but is written by someone you have never heard of before. Would you risk RM45 on it? Tak kot. 

But, would you risk RM15 on it? Probably YES!

Many authors know that they’ll stand a better chance of converting new readers at the remaindered books bin. And if you like that book, there’s a good chance you’ll come back for more – at full price!

So yeah, authors may not get cash for remaindered books, but at least someone’s reading it! And that’s what being an author is all about, right? Right?

Here’s some trivia about the love-hate relationship between authors and remaindered books: there’s a charity rock supergroup made up of famous authors like Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Mitch Albom called the Rock Bottom Remainders! You can catch them on Youtube later.


Phew, so these cheapo books are legit!

Yup, as legit as they come! 

You don’t have to worry about missing pages or crooked margins, and they’re NOT pirated. And the authors (usually) don’t mind all that much too!

The only downside is that you won’t be able to get the latest releases at remaindered prices. If you can wait about a year, chances are there’s a remaindered copy out there with your name (well, a mark, actually) on it!

Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you pay full price or just a fraction for it - a book is a book. And we at Loanstreet are down for anything that makes reading more affordable and accessible to all Malaysians. 

Thank you, remaindered books. You da real MVP. 

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