Whispers have started across the country of supply chain issues such as paper and truck driver shortages within the book production industry, and shopping is beginning to ramp up for the holiday season.
Locally, the owner of Lemuria Books in Jackson, John Evans, said the delays have yet to hit his bookstore, but he is being warned of the delays to come. He has noticed that publication dates of books scheduled to come out still this year are now being pushed back by publishers. However, as of now, he believes he has been proactive to stay above the book delays.
“We are experiencing delays from publishers about when books are released, but that is not anything we can control,” Evans said. “I think the publishers are having to readjust their capacities to get everything out of the warehouse in an appropriate time so they are in-sync all over the country at the same time. Publishing dates are changing a lot but publishers are notifying us, and we’re changing it in our system and the orders are holding.”
Evans said that most of the big books this year actually scheduled earlier release dates than usual this year to try and beat the holiday rush that could cause delays. He said he has “bought heavy” for those big books in anticipation for holiday sales, as he doesn’t know if it will be an option to restock those titles in November and December.
“Everything that we are hearing from the publishers going forward is, ‘If you think you’re going to need it, go on and buy it.’,” Evans said. “We have been trying to do that with the anticipation that delays will come on reprints.”
Evans said publishers have been communicating well with bookstores to help them be proactive. While usually stores will wait to see what the demand is for a book before buying more, publishers have encouraged owners to be aware of the possible demand and be ready early.
“We are having to predict more of what the demand will be upfront because the delays will come,” Evans said.
One of the local publishing houses in Jackson is University Press of Mississippi (UPM). Courtney McCreary, UPM’s Senior Publicity and Promotions Manager, said the company currently hasn’t had many disruptions with the paper shortage and don’t anticipate issues with books for the holidays.
“We’ve been proactive with scheduling books a little earlier than normal and have switched to using whatever paper for the pages and bindings that is available at the time of ordering,” McCreary said.
Pete Halverson, assistant production manager, said the books are not actually manufactured through the company so they rely on what they hear from their printers. Luckily for UPM, Halverson said the delays printers are experiencing haven’t affected the company drastically because their current production schedule allows for some extra time.
“Most of the printers are extremely busy right now and the paper shortage makes things worse,” Halverson said. “The biggest change has been an increase in prices. We are hopeful for the future but will stay informed.”
Halverson added that each title the company publishes is also available in ebook format — a market he said is expanding. The paper shortage does not affect this production.
Evans said the bigger problem at the moment is decreased traffic in the store the last few months. He said Lemuria had great traffic in the summer months and there was excitement about the Mississippi Book Festival. However, then the Delta-variant hit, the festival was cancelled and people started to stay home again.
“We were becoming more of a habitual retail store again, and the Delta just took the air out of the balloon,” Evans said. “The traffic is definitely off. I think that in itself could be deceptive in making us think we have enough quantity of the titles we need, at least right now, because we aren’t getting enough signals that we have underbought things.”
Evans said last year he was very cautious when buying books, but this year he has not been “stingy” when buying. Now it is just a matter of waiting to see if he prepared well enough.
“I’m hoping that we are ahead of the game and we’ve been concentrating really hard on, if indeed there is a problem of demand, we are ahead of it,” Evans said. “It is a publishing problem that we don’t really see until it affects us.”