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No more bubble envelopes

New books are not particularly fragile. Everyone knows that. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons why paper-and-ink texts are still preferred by such a wide margin over breakable, expensive-to-replace e-books and e-readers.

So it’s a bit of a mystery why the vast majority of publishers choose to send out review copies and sample copies of books in bubble envelopes.

Here at Q&Q, we try, as much as we can, to re-use these envelopes, but there’s only so much we can do. Here’s a shot of just some of the envelopes that infest our offices:

bubble envelopes

We re-use them and give them away, but they just keep piling up. They’re like Tribbles. We’re certain the situation is the same, if not much worse, at other media outlets. The most likely result is that the majority of these envelopes – which are NOT recyclable – just end up in landfill.

And so we’re asking – pleading, really – that publishers switch to using strong paper or cardboard envelopes for review and sample copies. Most warehouses do this already. It’s the most sensible, economic, and eco-friendly thing to do.

David Leonard, the book campaigner for Markets Initiative, agrees. “Obviously, the biggest environmental footprint from the publishing industry comes from the paper that the books are printed on,” Leonard told Q&Q in an an e-mail, “but environmental action with integrity should incorporate all aspects of a company’s practices. A simple shift from non-recyclable bubble wrap envelopes to recycled and recyclable cardboard packaging is a fast and easy way for a publisher to reduce their footprint, and help reduce pressure on our forests.”

So please, if you won’t do it for your bottom line, or for the environment, do it for us. Trust us: the books won’t break.

  • Tim Smith

    i can see my book in that picture!

  • Ami McKay

    “And so were asking pleading, really that publishers switch to using strong paper or cardboard envelopes for review and sample copies. Most warehouses do this already. Its the most sensible, economic, and eco-friendly thing to do.”

    I have my own bubble-envelope/tribble pile in my studio. I reuse them occasionally, but they add up over time – and the problem with where they will eventually find their end is a big concern. I switched to heavy paper and cardboard envelopes a couple of years ago and no one has ever complained about books, manuscripts etc. being damaged.

    Add my voice to the chorus…
    No more bubble envelopes!

  • patricia

    When I send books out, I only ever use a good quality cardboard envelope. I’ve never had any complaints!

    Love the Tribble reference…

  • Zachariah Wells

    I only re-use the Tribbles from my never-shrinking pile when I send out books. I also use them as padding for truly breakable things when I move.

    One thing that Canada Post should do is revise their weight/volume charging so that it is actually cheaper to send two things in one envelope instead of two. There’s actually a significant financial penalty to the sender when you put two books in a single envelope. How does that make any sense?

  • Ingrid

    My tribble envelopes come from page proofs rather than review copies – even less likely to break when being couriered. A simple paper envelope would suffice, but I have mounds of unrecyclable bubble envelopes instead.

    The funny thing is, over half of them have been recycled by the publisher and passed on to me. Since, in many cases, I don’t have to send back page proofs (oh, lovely PDF technology!), I am where the bubble envelope stops.

    I wonder if there’s any way to make cat toys or origami art out of them…? Hm.

  • Dummy Blogger

    Computer: Is there any chance that tribbles will be recyclable in the near future? I’ve always wondered why they can’t make the list.

  • Mary Soderstrom

    Enlighten me, please. What’s a tribble envelope? Tribbles, Wikipedia tells me, were little furry creatures on Star Trek. But padding envelopes?

    Actually the neatest packing materiial (not to be used for book though) is the unbuttered popcorn that my sister used to use to stuff Christmas parcels with. Pretty stale by the time the box made its way from Vancouver to Montreal, but the dog throught it was great.


  • Rob in Victoria

    Hey, if you’re gonna go off on a quixotic quest, the windmills might as well be padded…

  • Alex Good


    Tribbles are furry and cute, but they multiply like coat hangers on viagra and before you know it they’re everywhere, spilling out of closets, covering table-tops, etc. Like all of these bubbly envelopes.

  • Zachariah Wells

    I really don’t think we should adopt practices that might lead to increased cultivation of corn.

  • Christophe Horguelin

    Can anyone name a few brands of strong-paper or cardboard envelopes available in eastern Canada? I cannot find any at regular outlets in Montreal. I work for a publisher — please help make a difference.

  • Allen Lavoie

    Thanks for sharing this article.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

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Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

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