Describing the condition of secondhand products: a new standard


Hitherto on this blog, I’ve written little about the secondhand trade in books (and other cultural artefacts). Yet they play an important part in the creative economy.

Conventionally, publishers have rather disliked the secondhand market, seeing it as something that diverts purchasing power from the new books market.

In fact, though, the situation is more complex than that. The more readers believe they will be able


to sell their books secondhand, the more willing they will be to buy new books in the first place. This is particularly true of environmentally conscious consumers, who will see the secondhand market as an opportunity for reducing environmental impact, through re-use.

Moreover, secondhand markets can operate as discovery tools, allowing readers to explore, at low cost, authors or genres new to them.

All of which makes it interesting that ISO has published a trading standard for secondhand markets. ISO is a non-governmental organisation that brings together standards bo


dies in numerous countries. According to its website, ISO “brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges”.

According to ISO’s press release, the standard (20245:2017), which is designed to apply to cross-border trade, “specifies how to evaluate and classify products on a ranking based on their condition: A (very good), B (good), C (fair), and D (poor). These measurable criteria are destined to be used by importing or exporting parties or governments for in-transit and port-of-entry screening of second-hand goods, and will ensure that both consumers and the environment are protected”. I guess that precise use will have limited direct impact in the case of books: but if consensus on descriptive terms becomes more widespread as a result, that surely is to the good.

I’m grateful to the Resilience Post for bringing the standard to my attention.



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