Book Mark
November 23, 2010 11:42 AM   Subscribe

How would you feel if you received a book as a gift and found that it had a remainder mark?

I got a very early start on holiday shopping this year. I do it exclusively online because I'm bedridden by chronic illness.

I decided that this year, I wanted to avoid my former practice of paying Amazon $4 to $6 to gift-wrap each item. I figured I'd ship everything to myself, then have el_lupino wrap it and ship it out again, mostly using Media Mail. I've been ordering holiday gifts from Amazon for ten years now for my family and friends who are spread all over the U.S.

Figuring I could buy more presents per person if I purchased them from Amazon Marketplace sellers, I ordered a few items that way. I was careful to choose only those items claimed to be "Like New." Well, I have the items in hand now, and two of the three books I bought for a particular person - someone I've known for 20 years and who is a very close friend - have a remainder mark. The marks weren't mentioned in either book's description.

Now I'm trying to decide whether to return the books and buy new ones, or give them as gifts the way they are.

So: How would you feel if a book you were given as a gift had a remainder mark? Insulted? Hurt? Devalued? Nonplussed? Other? Thanks, MeFites.
posted by jocelmeow to Human Relations (68 answers total)
indifferent. in my family, it is totally acceptable (encouraged, even) to buy each other used books.
posted by juliapangolin at 11:44 AM on November 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I would not have any feelings about the remainder mark whatsoever. I'd care far more about the thought that went into the book selection.
posted by Zophi at 11:45 AM on November 23, 2010 [31 favorites]

Wouldn't care or notice.
posted by Arbac at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2010

I didn't know what a remainder mark was until i clicked your link.

If the person isn't a fanatic.. I can't see why it would be a problem.

I'm all about people buying me things for the cheapest they can get it.
posted by royalsong at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are only two things that count w/r/t books as gifts (unless they're coffee table books):

- The sentiment
- The words inside
posted by mkultra at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

Other. Until you asked, I wouldn't have known what it signified. Now that I know what it signifies, if I were given a book with such a mark, I'd think, "Hey, they got a great deal on this book, go them."

But that's me. What would your close friend think?
posted by galadriel at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010

The remainder mark is irrelevant to me. Yay, books!
posted by pointystick at 11:47 AM on November 23, 2010

I buy and receive used books all the time, and I don't mind at all. I'd feel annoyed if a gift book had writing or highlighting in it (unless it was super rare and unable to get otherwise), but a remainder mark doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I sell books on Amazon occasionally, and I'm always careful to note when they have remainder marks or penciled prices. Always best to warn people upfront, I figure.
posted by vickyverky at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it were given to me by someone who was well-off and always flaunting their expensive consumer goods, I would think they were stingy and kind of classless. If it were given to me by someone who I knew had a low-paying job, was a single parent, or had lots of medical expenses (for example), I would think that it was very kind and thoughtful of them to be resourceful in tracking down a book they thought I would like, despite their difficulties. You know your friend better than we do - are they the kind of person who is wrapped up in consumerism and superficial appearances, or do they really understand and care about you?
posted by matildaben at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

It would not bother me. I'm pleased if the giver has chosen a book that I like. It shows thoughtfulness. I don't care if the book is used or remaindered. As long as it's clean and in good condition.
posted by valannc at 11:48 AM on November 23, 2010

Before you told me about remainder marks, I didn't know about them.

I wouldn't feel great about a book with what looks like a sharpie swipe on it, though, if it was being presented as a *new* gift. In honesty, I'd assume it was second hand.

Perhaps I'm shallow.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:49 AM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: It doesn't bother me at all, the gift is what's written between the covers.

It drives me crazy when Marketplace sellers fail to describe markings on books and I mention it in the feedback when it happens. I just want the courtesy of a heads up when I purchase something, ya know?
posted by jamaro at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't care at all, as a matter of fact I'd appreciate the book more. But you have to know your recipients. For example, my MIL would be horrified and disgusted to get gifted with a used book, or what she perceived to be used.
posted by iconomy at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2010

I buy my friends used books all the time. If your recipient is a reader, not a collector, and the book is otherwise in good condition, I can't imagine them feeling anything except gratitude.

(I've bought a lot of used books with that speckled dye on them. I thought it was just decorative, like gilt edging.)
posted by Zozo at 11:50 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If your friend is actually upset over this knowing you do all your shopping online for a very good reason, I would say that person is not a very good friend.
posted by amethysts at 11:51 AM on November 23, 2010

I would be thrilled to have a friend as amazing and thoughtful as you.

However, is there time to return them? Would you be able to get replacements quickly enough?

If it's going to nag at you, it might be worth getting replacements just for peace of mind.

I know that sometimes things like this nag at me, too--partly out of pride, and partly I want my loved ones to have the very "best"--even if I can't afford new I want it to be as much like new as possible.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:52 AM on November 23, 2010

I might be slightly annoyed, but that's from my own sense of OCD and not because I thought the gifter was being cheap. I'd be even less bothered if it was an interesting book from a close friend I'd known for 20 years.

If it's a well thought out gift that you know they will enjoy I wouldn't be concerned. If it's not a good match for your friend the mark may make it look like you just got it because it was cheap.
posted by lilac girl at 11:53 AM on November 23, 2010

I think it depends on how "bookish" the person is. A lot of people get excited simply to own a copy of a certain title, regardless if it is brand new or not.

Personally, I don't mind if people gift me used books. I love books, so I don't care if they are brand new or whatever. As long as the story is good. A lot of my friends are the kinds of people who shop at thrift stores, not just because it's cheaper, but also because they honestly view their finds as kinds of "treasure" ^__^ (I agree with this view)

I think that used books have a certain level of character to them. I think that if you wrapped them up with similarly themed wrappings (brown paper, striped baker's twine, & vintage stamps for instance, ) you could make the packages look really cool. :D

And I think that people should just appreciate getting thoughful gifts in the first place, especially in this econommy.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:53 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Depends, if you are buying for someone who is going to read it and enjoy the content, it doesn't matter even a little. Dog-eared pages and highlighter all over the place might be tacky, but a remainder mark wouldn't even come close to entering into my sphere of 'knowing and caring'.

If you're buying it for someone who doesn't actually read, but collects books for their monetary value, or for show, well, I guess it would matter.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 11:53 AM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: I know about remainder marks because I'm a former bookseller. If it's a book that I'm actually interested in reading, I wouldn't care, but if it was just a random book, I'd feel a bit annoyed. I've left negative feedback in the past due to remainder marks that weren't mentioned in the description. They do have a "cheap" association to them.
posted by litnerd at 11:53 AM on November 23, 2010

I'd be so delighted over the new gift-wrapping practice (seriously, Amazon's gift-wrapping sucks is so horrifyingly half-assed) that I probably wouldn't even notice remainder marks. If they were books that were relevant to my interests or things I wanted, it wouldn't faze me a bit.
posted by booknerd at 11:55 AM on November 23, 2010

A book is a book. It doesn't both me at all. I have received a number of books with remainder marks as gifts and probably given a few. I actually didn't realize it was even a concern for people until I had a complaint from someone when trading such a book via paperbackswap.

So, evidently it is a concern for some, but not for most, based on the comments above.
posted by chiefthe at 11:55 AM on November 23, 2010

If I enjoyed reading the book, I wouldn't care if were remaindered, despite the ethical ramifications (remaindered books are not to be sold, in the US, at least). I would simply assume the person who gave it to me was a power shopper.

One of the best gifts I've ever received was a used book, after all.
posted by QIbHom at 11:57 AM on November 23, 2010

I t wouldn't bother me, but I'm not your friend. In fact, if it's remaindered because it's out-of-print and it was something I'd been looking for (or would have been looking for if I had known about it) I'd be thrilled.

I do think that the seller should have mentioned it though, and you should get a refund if it's not what you thought you were buying.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:58 AM on November 23, 2010

I wouldn't terribly mind if the book was well-thought out as a gift (especially as you're giving multiple books). I would, in your place, mind a great deal, and -- although probably not return them -- complain and/or comment about the seller.
posted by jeather at 11:58 AM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: Personally, I would probably not notice. And even if I did notice, I would still be happy (or unhappy) with the book itself, not how you bought it. Then again, I am not the type of person to immediately question the monetary value of any gift, but only you know your friend.

Do you know from past history whether your friend has issues with giving/receiving used or remaindered goods? Does your friend shop at used bookstores, buy used books online, or shop at thrift stores? Even if your friend doesn't do these things, I think many people who won't buy anything secondhand will accept a book someone else has read without a second thought, as long as they receive it directly from someone they know (even if that book was secondhand or remaindered for their friend).

Also I think it boils down to whether your friend is someone who's judge-y and looks to find fault with things you do or not. You could also include a note or call after your friend opens your gifts to mention you wish you'd been able to get copies without a remainder mark, but you hope the books will be enjoyed.
posted by lesli212 at 11:59 AM on November 23, 2010

Count me with the don't care people. Books are awesome.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:01 PM on November 23, 2010

I think it depends mostly on your friend, and the kind of book it is; if it's something you picked out because it's about a subject you know they're interested in, then it's the contents of the book that matter and a remainder mark should matter less. If it's more of a token coffee table type present-for-the-sake-of-present, then a remainder mark would make it seem like that much more of an empty gesture.

But either way, if they're fussy about new stuff versus used stuff, a remainder mark would probably bug them.

Me? Yay books from my close friend of 20 years!
posted by usonian at 12:01 PM on November 23, 2010

I wouldn't mind, but I know materialistic and OCD people who do mind. I'm obsessive enough that I never entirely trust used books (I have to be in an especially carefree mood to read them while eating,) but it doesn't bother me to get used books, especially out of print ones, as gifts.

For some people, including my mother, I go out of my way to get shiny, pretty, brand-new stuff. I don't think she'd read a used book if I got it for her.
posted by SMPA at 12:04 PM on November 23, 2010

That would be just fine, especially if it was something that obviously suited my interests. I wouldn't care if the giver was well-off or dirt poor, what matters is that someone thought enough of me to get me this gift.

I would be annoyed with the seller for not disclosing this, though.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:06 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: It depends on the books and the relationship there.

I've been given used books before and the gift giver acknowledged they were used books and they gave me more than they would have otherwise been able to give and the titles showed a very thoughtful hunting and understanding of my book addiction. So I was overjoyed and thrilled and happy and felt guilty that my gift hadn't taken as much time, care or effort.

I was given a single book by an old friend who made a big deal of getting me a gift (despite not having to get me one) and it was a book I hadn't heard of and that didn't really align to my tastes. When I found a handwritten note in it to the woman who gave it to me from another friend (making it obviously a regift and the fact that she hadn't read it all the way through), I was completely annoyed and wished she hadn't given me anything.

I was given a ratty looking book by a friend, with a remainder mark, and I'd never heard of the book, but there was a handwritten note about how he thought I'd love this book, his favorite chapter and why he thought I'd like it and how it was out of print. It was a prized possession and desperately romantic.
posted by Gucky at 12:07 PM on November 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've got a relative who likes to give remaindered books, stuff like "A Pictoral Guide to Toad Stools". The content (since I'm never interested in the content) bothers me way more than the price.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:07 PM on November 23, 2010

If someone who could afford more gave me a used book as my only gift, I'd want a note included that explained why the book is so great and why it made you think of me. Otherwise I'd say just a card and no present is better.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:08 PM on November 23, 2010

I wouldn't care, and in fact would be pretty pissed if I gave a gift like that and someone did care. A remaindered book is not used - it was never sold.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:08 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I never entirely trust used books

?? In what way?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:09 PM on November 23, 2010

"A Pictoral Guide to Toad Stools"
Oh, Ad hominem, if I didn't think you were exaggerating, how I'd beg for that on my bookshelf!
posted by Gucky at 12:10 PM on November 23, 2010

Oh hey that's what those marker lines and dye spatters are all about. Who knew?

Wouldn't bother me, even now that I know. It's already a more thoughtful gift than if you had grabbed something with a pretty cover from the first table at Big Chain Bookstore. Dogears or underlines would be kind of tacky though, even for me.

There are folks who would be offended to receive a gift that wasn't Brand Spankin' New. (That's OK! Different people value gifts in different ways.) If your friend is someone who breaks out the Fine China when you're over for dinner, then maybe reconsider, but most likely you'll be fine.
posted by a young man in spats at 12:12 PM on November 23, 2010

I might be a bit annoyed but were I giving, I would enclose a note and mention that this book was one I really thought the person would love, so I bought it, remaindered. Usually books that are remaindered are no longer readily available new.
posted by Postroad at 12:12 PM on November 23, 2010

It wouldn't bother me, as long as the book overall isn't on the verge of falling apart.
posted by Anima Mundi at 12:12 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: My brother regularly purchases books and dvds from my amazon wishlist using Amazon marketplace. I know my brother is cheap, but I love him and I don't mind; I know he's got a family to think about. Actually I wish I could be more of a saver like he is. I love books, but I love them for the content, not the cover. So to answer your question, I don't feel any disappointment at having received a remainder or something used.

My brother also knows that I usually sell my books to the used book store down the street once I'm done with them. It's how I fund my children's book-buying sprees for my nieces and nephews at the end of the year. So I've given his kids used books, but I picked out ones that were in nice condition, and they don't really know the difference and they loved them. And then my brother doesn't feel guilty about whether I'm spending more than he is.

It sounds like you know your friend well enough to know where he/she buys their books. An independent bookstore? Borders? A used book store? Amazon? Maybe all of these? So maybe you can deduce how she might feel if she got a remainder. And if you can't, you could always ask her.
posted by sarahnade at 12:16 PM on November 23, 2010

There's actually a book store near my office, Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, that specializes in inexpensive remaindered books, some of which would be hard to find anywhere else. Unless it was something bought because it was collectible (first edition, rare print, etc), I wouldn't be bothered by this.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:16 PM on November 23, 2010

Some people would definitely be insulted that you gave them a used item as a gift.

Don't take the word of random mefites over what you know of your friend.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:23 PM on November 23, 2010

I personally wouldn't care, and live surrounded by books bought used. But people can be weird about gifts.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:25 PM on November 23, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for so many answers, so quickly! I am actually totally surprised - I expected people to be more bothered by it than seems to be the case here.

I think part of what's influencing my worry about it may be the sense in which I feel like giving books with a remainder marks is a failure in "keeping up appearances." I was known - when I was still well enough to be working, with a working person's income - for giving generous, sometimes a bit lavish gifts, very specially selected to suit the recipient, and I really delighted in doing so. I can't manage the lavish so much any more, but I still really enjoy finding the perfect item for that particular person.

lesli212, your comment about whether the friend is a thrift shopper hit the nail on the head in a way that hadn't even occurred to me. This friend and I started out our thrift-shopping habits together as teenagers...we were big into the 60s fashion revival of the early 90s. A few years ago, when I was living in California, she and I had a phone conversation in which she told me about a beautiful vintage dress she'd tried on at an antique mall in a small town about 45 minutes from our hometown in Virginia. She'd left the dress because she thought it was more than she wanted to spend at $75. I fished around for details about the dress as we were talking. Then I tracked down the name of the antique mall in the small town by looking online, and got on the phone to them the next day. The person on the phone was able to find the dress, I paid for it over the phone, and the person whose booth it had been in was kind enough to wrap and mail it for me closer to the holiday. My friend was flabbergasted and delighted when it arrived! That remains one of my favorite gifts I've ever been able to give, and I know it's one of her favorites she's ever received. :) I guess maybe I should be less worried about this.

On preview, oh my god, JaredSeth, I love that bookstore name.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:25 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone gave me a gift! And the person knows enough about me to know that I like books! And the giver got a good deal!

Triple win, in my opinion.
posted by bilabial at 12:27 PM on November 23, 2010

Honestly, I wouldn't have guessed that's what that was. For what it's worth, I worked in a corner store that sold new books, and we put lines on the pages to mark how long we'd had particular books in stock, since they rotated back to our distributor after 4 weeks. So I wouldn't have even known that's what the lines meant.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:51 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Remaindered books aren't used books. Not that there's anything wrong with giving someone a used book, in my opinion.

Also, when you give a remaindered book, it's not like you generally have the choice of giving a non-remaindered copy of the same title, so it's either "Give the person this particular book that you think is the right choice for them, and it's remaindered" or "Give this person a different book that's currently in print." Unless the person is a collector of fine editions only and doesn't have any remaindered books in their library, I fail to see the issue.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:57 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I might be slightly put off by an obviously used book, but a new book that simply has a remainder mark wouldn't bother me at all. It's really the content and quality of the book itself, and the thought behind it, that counts, not how much money was spent on it (which is all the remainder mark really indicates).
posted by datarose at 1:09 PM on November 23, 2010

It's not a used book. You obviously chose it thoughtfully. People who get too wrapped up in gifts people give them are kind of missing the point. I care a lot more that the book reflects my taste in reading, not the price.

I would email the seller or note on my review that the book had an undisclosed remainder mark. They should have said so. The only effect is on collectability.
posted by theora55 at 1:10 PM on November 23, 2010

I wouldn't care, but then, my mother's given me gifts (including books) with thrift store stickers on them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:13 PM on November 23, 2010

But, but...what if it has BEDBUGS?!

Kidding. Assuming you chose the book with your friend's interests in mind, and given that your friend's a thrift shopper, it'll be fine.
posted by tangerine at 1:31 PM on November 23, 2010

Best answer: Let me add that under the Amazon guidelines for marketplace sellers, "like new" books may have a remainder mark and be in compliance: "Like New: An apparently unread copy in perfect condition. Dust cover is intact, with no nicks or tears. Spine has no signs of creasing. Pages are clean and are not marred by notes or folds of any kind. Book may contain a remainder marks on an outside edge but this should be noted in listing comments."

I myself tend to undergrade, and would probably list a new book with remainder mark as no higher than very good, and I would be put out if the seller hadn't mentioned it--as the GIVER of the gift. However, as the recipient, the remainder mark would not bother me.
posted by thebrokedown at 1:48 PM on November 23, 2010

I think if it's really nagging at you, why not include a little something extra -- nicely packaged tea. A coffee shop gift card. A luxurious candy bar. I would be delighted with this gift and would probably not notice a remainder mark or care.
posted by amanda at 1:55 PM on November 23, 2010

If you really don't want it to be there, take a piece of sandpaper or a nail file and it'll probably take two or three strokes, tops, to brush off the mark.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 2:18 PM on November 23, 2010

As a reader, if all the words are there, it's mint.
posted by hamandcheese at 2:50 PM on November 23, 2010

I didn't know what a remainder mark was until you wrote about it, and I'm an avid book reader.

Agreed with many above that I wouldn't care a bit about the mark - it's the thought that counts. A shabby, well-used book that was available in better condition might be a bit gauche, if the giver was obviously flush with cash and didn't make it clear that there was thought given to the selection - but this doesn't fit that category.
posted by hootenatty at 3:06 PM on November 23, 2010

I'd think "this is awesome! It'll get along with the rest of my friends books!"
posted by madcaptenor at 3:50 PM on November 23, 2010

I would be happy the giver got a good deal, and happy to have a thoughtfully selected book.
posted by Zed at 5:10 PM on November 23, 2010

Didn't even know what a remainder mark is till this post. I'd be more touched by the gift, not whether it's a full price item or not. Good link btw, I now know why some of my books have these markings :)
posted by TrinsicWS at 5:34 PM on November 23, 2010

This has been a difficult year financially for... well, just about everyone.

Even IF the recipient knew what a remainder mark was (many people do not), and even IF they noticed, I think this year out of all, people will totally politely overlook something awkward, like the knowledge that a gift was purchased at less than full cover price.
posted by ErikaB at 6:20 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't have known what a remainder mark was either, so I would assume the book got accidentally messed up somehow. That would be no big deal to my mind, but I would be a little bit disappointed that some kind of a mishap had occurred to my book and made it a little less than pristine.

Overall if we're good friends, this would be a completely minor matter in our friendship, and it wouldn't matter what kind of gift you gave, or whether you gave one at all.

In fact knowing that you previously used to give lavish gifts but are now in financially difficult circumstances, it'd be more than ok with me if you gave me no gift at all. I'd accept anything you gave in the spirit it was meant, and perhaps gently suggest that gifts are not required, and our friendship is the best possible gift of all.
posted by philipy at 6:40 PM on November 23, 2010

I'd be thrilled, sometimes used books are HARDER to find than new ones anyway.

but I love books...period.
posted by dreamling at 7:20 PM on November 23, 2010

I love books. Used, new, remainders are all good. I wouldn't care one bit.

As a purchaser, I would be less than happy to have had this information withheld.
posted by littleflowers at 7:27 PM on November 23, 2010

I've received remainder books as presents before, and I didn't care one way or the other. As a lot of people above seem to agree, I'd rather receive a book that matches my interests or seems more personally picked out for me (even if it's used!) than a book that is in perfect condition but I know I'll never read. Anyway, isn't it even more thoughtful that someone was thinking of you when they were clearly just browsing and not deliberately scouring a store for presents?

Anyway, regardless of economic climate, I don't think bargain hunters ever have to be embarrassed. It's never in poor taste to save a few dollars!
posted by Mael Oui at 9:06 PM on November 23, 2010

I've given a few used books (because they were out of print or the hardcover edition I wanted to give was no longer being printed), but always made sure to let the recipient know why. No one has seemed upset with the gift.
posted by brujita at 9:48 PM on November 23, 2010

If a friend of mine who was bedridden by chronic illness gave me a book as a gift, and I found that it had a remainder mark,

I would feel honoured/touched/heartwarmed/moved that my friend cared about me so much, that despite being bedridden, they had still used their limited mental/emotional/physical energy to buy me a gift.

Seriously, some of my close friends have significant medical issues... ...I know that for someone with medical issues, just thinking about and choosing a gift can be a big deal time-wise and energy-wise. I would be moved and touched.

Any gift-recipient who gives you a hard time about the remainder mark is being overly judgemental.
posted by Year of meteors at 12:19 AM on November 24, 2010

You know, rubbing along the pages with a bit of fine sandpaper on a block will erase it. I have done this before selling books to secondhand shops to make them crispy new looking :)
posted by honey-barbara at 9:02 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone; this was very helpful.

amanda, when your comment came in, I was over at Amazon picking up one more book for her gift. The three I have already are from her wishlist, and I remembered that there was another I'd come upon that I wanted her to have.

BuddhainaBucket and honey-barbara, I took a look at the marks, and the marker has been wicked into the page a little, rather than just sitting on the top edge. Sanding them down would require taking at least 1/16 of an inch off, which wouldn't improve the books' looks, I don't think.
posted by jocelmeow at 4:58 PM on November 25, 2010

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