Publishers Weekly online reports that Steve Riggio, CEO of Barnes & Noble, is talking about eliminating the traditional practice of booksellers returning to publishers all the books that do not sell. It's a strange quirk of the book business -- imagine your local car dealer returning all the unsold cars to Ford and Toyota. But it does prevent booksellers from radically marking down their slow-moving wares.
This is bound to set off a huge and hot discussion among large and small booksellers, as well as publishers. Publishers would love it, but small booksellers will be under greater pressure to make the right buying choices. What seems likely is that they will take fewer chances on odd or niche books, which might mean all Grisham et al., all the time. If you're stuck with every book you take out of the box, why take any chances? That would reduce the variety of bookstore inventory, and might drive more independent stores out of business as they lose their ability to compete with Barnes & Noble and other big chains on variety of selection.