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What a Book Shortage Means for You

This year, consider shopping in-person and ordering ahead from indies like Scuppernong Books in Greensboro!

The pandemic has made most of us armchair experts in fields as diverse as epidemiology and global shipping; we now, casually, toss around terms such as “efficacy” and “supply chain,” words that probably weren’t in most of our everyday vocabularies in February of 2020.

Still, things like supply chains do matter, and one supply chain in particular is in danger of being disrupted and having an adverse effect on the publishing industry.

According to Publishers Weekly, “congestion at the ports, and escalating transportation costs” are putting “putting more pressure on the supply chain…printing capacity continues to shrink and labor shortages have made it difficult for printers, retailers, and wholesalers to fully staff their businesses.”

The New Orleans-based bookstore Tubby & Co, which hosts a helpful Twitter thread on the subject, notes there’s a paper shortage; a cardboard shortage; an increase in printing costs; and a labor shortage. Everyone is affected, from pop-up booksellers to large-scale wholesalers. Many authors have taken to Twitter in a panic.

But should we, the level-headed readers and writers of North Carolina, panic?

Truth is, yes, there is a paper shortage and yes, it will affect availability for the forseeable future. But this mostly affects new releases scheduled between now and the end of the year. Especially in terms of the holidays, if there’s a book coming out that you’re really looking forward to reading, or that you want to give to someone, it’s best to pre-order it now from your local bookstore.

It’s best to be a little ahead of the game in general, anyway, this year, because shipping is taking longer than usual to reach our beloved indies, all over the globe.

“Titles that used to take about two weeks to get to us are now taking a minimum of 3–4 weeks,” writes Carina Pereira on Book Riot, “and sometimes even end up all together cancelled.”

In fact, Pereira recommends taking a different approach entirely to shopping for books this year, including:

  • buying what you see, rather than what you want
  • buying gift cards to indies
  • buying more digital content
  • And of course, ordering ahead

As with any disruption, it’s the indie bookstores and indie publishers—who often commit to smaller print runs and so lack the economic muscle to keep up—who suffer most.

So let’s remember our indies here in Q4. And most importantly, as with most everything these days, let’s remember to have patience with one another…and ourselves!