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Should booksellers buy books “blind?”

Using the new Christopher Ciccone-penned Madonna tell-all as a lead-in, Slate looks at the book-world phenomena of buying books “blind”:

Christopher Ciccone’s new celebrity tell-all, Life With My Sister Madonna, hit store shelves on Tuesday. News reports say that his publisher, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, sold the book (co-written with Wendy Leigh) “blind” to retailers, meaning they purchased the book without knowing the author, the subject matter, or whether it would create a gossip maelstrom. Why would retailers make that gamble?

The piece goes on to posit some answers, but also questions the validity of the practice by pointing out some recent blind purchase disasters, like the O.J. pseudo-confessional If I Did It, which had to be withdrawn. One thing the piece fails to note, however, is that the books are almost always returnable, meaning the risk is a fairly mitigated one.