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“The Beginning of the Snowball”: Books on Supply Chain Delays



When publishers print books in the United States, these labor and transportation issues still apply, but they face other complications as well. After years of printing press shutdowns and shutdowns, the demand for book printing nationwide now exceeds available capacity. The factories that remain sometimes do not have enough people to run them, so much-needed machines can sit idle.

All of these problems complicate each other. “Trucks are more expensive, containers are more expensive, labor is more expensive,” said Jon Yaged, president of Macmillan’s US business books division. “And all the extra touches. Previously, you would place a purchase order and it wouldn’t arrive until two weeks later. Now it’s 10 keys and 15 emails. It’s a lot more work.

This mess led to a cascade of release date changes, sometimes delaying a book for a few weeks, other times for months, completely missing the holiday shopping season. Parag Khanna’s “Move” was previously scheduled for release on Tuesday, but is now slated for release next week. Princeton University Press pushed Mark Atwood Lawrence’s “end of ambition” from October to November. “Smahtguy,” a graphic novel about former depicting Barney Frank, was delayed by Metropolitan Books, a Macmillan imprint, from fall through spring. Publishers view these changes as a last resort, as a date change can result in the removal of events or reporting, the cancellation of retail promotions, and the reduction of orders placed. Publishers have prioritized upcoming book calendars that they expect to be their biggest sellers.

There isn’t much anyone in the book business can do to fix this problem. Retailers, authors and distributors are begging readers and customers to buy or order early. Publishers plan more in advance and sometimes even put book shipments on airplanes. One publisher said it currently costs about 35 to 50 cents per book to send titles across the water, and $ 5 to $ 8 per air. No one knows when things will get back to normal, but it won’t be until long after this holiday season.

Perhaps the biggest problem before the holidays will be reprints, which are needed when a book’s initial order is low and needs to be restocked. Normally, this kind of order takes about three weeks. Now it may take three months.

This is where “All the troubles that are common these days” got into trouble. The book, which chronicles an American woman who helped lead the German resistance against the Nazis, did not run out of print everywhere, but it took weeks to get new inventory to warehouses, then extra time to get it through. to retailers. (Barnes & Noble, as well as many independent stores, had copies from the start – its non-fiction buyer loved the book, according to Shannon DeVito, director of books at Barnes & Noble, so the chain ordered a lot. ) It took more for Amazon. more than seven weeks to retrieve the copies in stock.

Indeed, one factor compounding these problems is good news for the industry: the demand for printed books is high. Revenues from publishers’ commercial books, which include most fiction, non-fiction and general interest titles, grew nearly 10% last year compared to 2019, according to the Association of American Publishers , and increased by 17% for the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.