September 21, 2021

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Paper shortage is a big problem for the book sector: "Some titles are temporarily unavailable"

Paper shortage is a big problem for the book sector: “Some titles are temporarily unavailable”

The book sector suffers from a shortage of paper. Due to the Corona pandemic, the home delivery economy has spread all over the world and there is a huge demand for carton boxes for packages from online stores and pizza boxes. So the pulp cannot be pulled out. But this is also necessary for books, and this sector seems to be a bit victim to the current paper shortage.

“We have to reach out from the back, I get the impression,” says Robert Jan de Roig, director and owner of Wilco in Amersfoort. This is one of the largest printing companies in the Netherlands. There are even book paper mills in Europe that are being converted into carton box mills. “It looks like a lot of money is being made in this sector.”

As a result, De Rooij has to wait a very long time when he orders paper: “The whole paper market is completely unbalanced. If I want to get paper at home, such an order usually takes a few weeks. Now I have to wait four months. So Yes, publishers sometimes have to wait for their books, too.”

toilet tissues

The pulp of paper is increasingly likely to become a box rather than a book. In Asia, the toilet paper market is also growing exponentially; So it seems more important than the book market.

“Publishers must therefore plan (re)releases very well, because otherwise some titles may not be available for a while,” says Martin David, general secretary of the General Publishers Group. “You can’t call the printer on Tuesday and ask if there’s a 3,000-copy reprint available on Thursday. I expect more books to be sold out, as I expect. So they weren’t ‘ordered today, delivered tomorrow’.”

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“Sold out from time to time”

Buyer Marte Kersten from publisher VBK Media learns of the problem. “Sometimes we haven’t been able to deliver recently. It still happens. We know that sometimes some types of paper are available, but they are of lower quality. And then you have to choose.”

The scarcity of paper, as well as the scarcity of glue and printing plates, for example, leads to high costs. Will it eventually be passed on to the consumer? Martin David does not describe such a potential price increase as dramatic. “That’s little work. Printing only sets the price of the book quite a bit. The biggest problem right now is really reprints: is there enough paper available for that?” David talks about a luxury problem. “There’s a lot of reading right now, which is a good sign, isn’t it?”