Paper shortage increases costs for publishers

A paper shortage due to the pandemic and Brexit is impacting the production of books, newspapers and other paper-based products.

This resulted in programming delays and higher costs absorbed by publishers ahead of the busy Christmas season.

Industry figures say it will be a boost for some small printers, but fear the problem will be fixed before the New Year.

Much of the shortage has been blamed on European paper mills struggling to find workers as operations resume after Covid’s forced shutdown

In many cases, they had employed migrant workers who returned home during the pandemic but did not return to work with their former employers.

A shortage of truck drivers to transport paper and printed books has also been blamed.

Blocking the Suez Canal earlier in the year was also seen as a contributing factor to a shortage of materials from China from Europe.

China is a major exporter of books and color printed materials.

New Island Books chief executive Mariel Deegan said the paper shortage has had an impact on businesses.

“We’re a freelance book publisher, working on maybe 20 books a year, and we use printers all over Europe,” she said.

“Fall is a busy time for printers at the best of times, as many books are released in September and October for the Christmas market, but this year the lead-in and turnaround times have been exceptional.

“One of the impacts has been the pressure to send out the order forms for the prints well in advance of the time when we actually print the books.

“It allows the printer to save time in their schedule, but the added urgency has been for them to secure the paper for the order before the prices increase further. “

She said this poses further challenges as print runs are set before publishers can get a sense of demand for a book, which may not be known until publication when retailers and booksellers respond to reviews. advertising.

“The net effect has been upward pressure on printing costs, longer turnaround times for book production, and difficulties in adjusting prints that do not need to be revised at future intervals. additional costs and delays, ”she added.

Books are not the only products impacted by the paper shortage.

In recent weeks, newspaper and magazine publishers have had to rethink the way their products are made.

Meanwhile, some printing companies are seeing increased demand for their services from companies that previously performed printing overseas.

Lilliput Press founder Antony Farrell said the publisher was redirecting some of their work to a Kerry printer to ensure their main headlines were ready for Christmas.

“It’s an additional cost to us, but they can turn things around. So we are redirecting part of our business here, which will help the Irish printing company.

“There is an advantage from that point of view, but it means that the unit cost of the books on our side is about 5 or 10 pc more. “

He said these were costs that most publishers would bear rather than pass them on to consumers because the cost of a book is “pretty fixed.”

Mr. Farrell added, “Our supply lines have been lengthened. Normally we would order our books from Poland and Spain and it would take four weeks, but now it takes six weeks. The reason, we are told, is the shortage of truck drivers and the shortage of paper.

“The land bridge is also a factor. Things would happen in Dover and across the Irish Sea. Now they are making arrangements to go through Cherbourg and Rosslare. They have also put in additional navigation to France, but transport is difficult.”

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