Miller, who's vowed to revolutionize publishing in his new post, instantly targeted a surreal policy that's been sacrosanct for too long: the practice that allows booksellers to send unsold copies back to publishers for credit.
In his last job, Miller published bestselling books such as Mitch Albom's ``For One More Day'' and ``The Last Lecture'' by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow.
At HarperCollins, Miller said he'll experiment with some nontraditional business practices, like offering authors profit- sharing instead of the typical advance/royalty arrangement, and bundling hardcover, nonfiction books with e-book versions of the same titles.
Miller wants to sell his books on a non-returnable basis in a bid to kick the industry's addiction to overprinting and overstocking.
Returns date back to the Depression, when publishers implemented the practice as a way to ensure that bookstores would continue stocking new books.
Today, publishers have convinced retailers that stacks of books piled high in the aisles will attract customers and spawn bestsellers. It's a leaky theory posing little risk for booksellers. If the books don't sell, they're only out the cost of shipping and handling the returns.
``Let's face it, returns are bad for everyone, and things have to change,'' Miller said in a telephone interview last month. ``The only way to make it happen was to start something entirely from scratch.''
In 2005, roughly 1.5 billion books were shipped in the U.S., according to the Association of American Publishers. Of those, 465 million, or 31 percent, were returned to publishers.