Leading article: Pulped facts

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The news that copies of Jonathan Franzen's latest book are to be pulped will have sent a shiver of Schadenfreude down many a writer's spine.

But Franzen is an exception. Copies of his novel are being pulped because they contain a few errors and his publishers care enough about their star writer to print his books all over again. The sad truth is that most authors' books get pulped because they have not proved popular enough. And pulping takes place on an industrial scale. It is estimated that about 40 per cent of printed books end up recycled.

For a writer, the word "pulped" has an awful ring. A book is supposed to be an immortal record of their hard work. It seems wrong to boil it down to papery mush. But some writers are more prepared than others for the cycle of creation and destruction. The newspaper you're holding in your hands today is the lining for the cat's litter tray tomorrow. And we say: just happy to be useful.

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