Academic publishers forced to delay new titles due to supply chain crisis

Academic publishers have been forced to delay publishing new books and absorb rising costs as the industry grapples with paper shortages and shipping delays.

Groups in North America and Europe said print schedules were taking at least twice as long, forcing them to change their publishing plans and use different types of paper and more on-demand printers. dear.

Many companies in the sector have warned of disruption this year from paper shortages following strikes by Finnish factory workers, as demand for books and packaging materials remains high. This happened amid price hikes in almost every part of the printing process, from parts to printers and shipping.

“For bookmaking, it was a perfect storm like we never imagined,” said Tim Jones, director of design and production at Harvard University Press.

He said the time it takes to get books to warehouses has dropped from eight to 16 weeks, with the cost of publishing increasing by 11-15%. HUP has not yet raised customer prices.

Before the pandemic, a new Duke University Press title typically took four weeks to get from press to warehouse, but now takes between nine and 17.

“I haven’t seen a schedule like this in 27 years,” said Amy Ruth Buchanan, director of publishing, design and production, who added that last-minute schedule changes printing were particularly challenging as printers struggled with plant closures, staff shortages and shipping delays.

“The deadlines were missed, especially when the [supply chain] the crisis initially heated up. . . Our colleagues in marketing and distribution probably have extra gray hairs now. »

Although academic publishing is less cyclical than commercial fiction, which has peak periods of demand in anticipation of the summer holidays and Christmas, it is important that titles are made available for academic meetings and term dates for teaching.

Cathy Felgar, director of publishing operations at Princeton University Press, said the publisher has been forced to push back publication dates for up to 40% of books since the start of the year. In most cases it had only been for a few weeks, but she added “there’s been worse than this and it’s so upsetting.”

“Printing came back strong and there wasn’t enough capacity,” she said. The publisher, which produces around 250 new titles a year, has taken measures such as choosing different types of paper and using different printers, but these have driven up costs.

Wiley, which operates internationally, said supply chain pressures were causing problems globally. “While we have not seen the same level of paper shortages in the UK/EMEA market at this stage, those markets also remain tight,” he said.

Neil de Cort, production manager at Polity Books, a small UK-based social science publisher, said the company had experienced “long” delays in the US. Although energy and paper prices also rose in the UK, he said long-standing relationships with printers had insulated him from shortages.

Although publishers said pressure could ease next year following a global paper supply crisis, they warned delays could continue as supply chains tighten. adapt to labor shortages and rising costs.

Buchanan said she expects “modest improvements” to schedules this year, but not a return to previous four-week rotations. At worst, she fears losing some paper choices for good.

“I don’t think the paper problem is going away anytime soon,” she said. “Paper mills are not set up or re-equipped quickly.”

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