A bookstore.
Source: Getty Images

The Publishing Industry Is Facing Never Before Seen Book Shortages — Here's Why

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Sep. 15 2021, Published 1:35 p.m. ET

During the coronavirus pandemic, there have been shortages in everything from toilet paper to computer chips. Now, one of the most unexpected shortages has the publishing industry in its grip. Authors took to Twitter to attempt and explain book shortages that are happening across the nation. Why is there a book shortage? Here's everything we know.

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A bookstore in Hong Kong.
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Why is there a book shortage? Labor shortages and shipping delays have contributed.

Author Tasha Suri tweeted a warning to all her readers and fellow book-lovers on Sept. 11, 2021: "Met friends today and tried to explain publishing's broken supply chain and realized I don't understand it either. But yeah: Please pre-order the books you want, because if the print books run out, there aren't going to be more for a while. A long while."

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Many other authors quickly followed suit, including Maureen Johnson, who wrote, "You may or may not have seen tweets about the publishing supply chain problem. Tl;dr, there is going to be a book shortage! So if there is something you want in a physical copy anytime in the next few months, it's best to get it now/preorder it." Book lovers on TikTok have also been posting about the issue, but nobody has been articulating why there's a book shortage until now.

Source: Twitter
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Thankfully, Publisher's Weekly has the answers we have been waiting for and explains that the book shortage has been growing since publishers first became aware of it in July 2021. "In the ensuing two months, things have gotten worse, as printing capacity continues to shrink and labor shortages have made it difficult for printers, retailers, and wholesalers to fully staff their businesses."

The problems leading to book shortages include shipping delays from vendors, bottlenecks in the supply chain, and a lack of available warehouse workers. Some publishers have been concerned about receiving shipments from overseas printers as well, saying that precautions including pre-ordering and ordering bulk shipments well in advance have been helpful to combat shortages.

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A bookstore.
Source: Getty Images

Indie bookstore Tubby & Coo's also did their best to break down the shortage in a handy Twitter thread, explaining that there are shortages in paper availability, printing, cardboard (for shipping), and port congestion in addition to a lack of available workers. Essentially, there are shortages at every level of work that goes into book printing, and literary fiends should expect to see this shortage extend through the rest of 2021.

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How can you help combat book shortages? Authors are urging readers to pre-order.

As Tasha explains, book shortages will impact all authors across the board, but more so debut authors and those who aren't yet on the New York Times bestseller list. "[The shortage] is going to hit smaller and midlist authored books in a bigger way than definite bestsellers because print runs are sized to reflect how much a publisher expects they can safely sell."

Foyles bookstore in the U.K.
Source: Getty Images

If there's a book you've been looking forward to reading or an author you are looking to support, many have said that the best way to combat the shortages is to pre-order! Most booksellers have a pre-order option available. If you are comfortable with digital editions, grabbing a Kindle or a Nook might also be easier than a print book in the months to come.

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