Supply chain issues are delaying printing and shipping. Order early to ensure you get what you need.
It's only mid-October but I implore you to turn your thoughts to the winter holidays, if just for a minute or two. If you are planning to buy books as gifts — and surely you are — now is the time to order them from your local bookseller.
Supply chain issues, which we have already encountered this pandemic with everything from refrigerators to toilet paper, are affecting books. Printing plants are at capacity, workers are scarce, and shipping problems — everything from a lack of shipping containers to backed-up ports to not enough truck drivers — can delay delivery once the book is printed.
I get emails almost daily from publicists announcing that the publication date for one book or another has been delayed. It's not the author's fault, or the book's fault, or the publisher's fault, and it is very definitely not the bookstore's fault. The fault lies in the great difficulty of simply getting the book printed and shipped.
The New York Times and Publishers Weekly have both reported on this in recent weeks.
"After years of printing plants shutting down and going out of business, the demand to print books domestically now exceeds the available capacity," the Times reported.
In some cases, publishers resort to triage, Publishers Weekly noted. That is, publishers might concentrate on printing new titles rather than reprinting books that are sold out.
Local booksellers are aware of the problems, and they are adjusting how they work.
"None of this is unexpected," said David Enyeart, manager of Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul, Minnesota. "We've been able to change our buying here to prepare for this winter. That's meant ordering more copies of books to arrive on the publication date. This year, we are buying bigger first stacks than usual, in the hopes that we won't run out.
"And of course we're encouraging customers to start their holiday shopping now. We are taking preorders on new books. When the books arrive, we'll set aside any preordered copies before the books even hit the shelves."