It’s only mid-October, but I implore you to turn to winter break, if only for a minute or two. If you are thinking of buying books as a gift – and you sure are – now is the time to order them from your local bookseller.
Supply chain issues, which we’ve already encountered this pandemic with everything from refrigerators to toilet paper, are affecting books. Printing plants are at full capacity, workers are scarce, and shipping issues – from a lack of shipping containers at backed up ports to a lack of truck drivers – can delay delivery once the book is printed.
I get emails almost daily from publicists telling me that the publication date of one book or another has been delayed. It is neither the author’s fault, nor the book’s fault, nor the publisher’s fault, and it is certainly not the bookstore’s fault. The fault lies in the great difficulty of simply having the book printed and shipped.
“After years of printing press shutdowns and shutdowns, the demand for book printing nationally now exceeds available capacity,” the Times reported.
In some cases, publishers use triage, Publishers Weekly noted. That is, publishers could focus on printing new titles rather than reprinting out-of-print books.
Local booksellers are aware of the problems and are adapting the way they work.
âNone of this is unexpected,â said David Enyeart, director of Next chapter Booksellers in Saint-Paul. âWe were able to modify our purchases here to prepare for this winter. This meant ordering more copies of the books to get to the publication date. This year we are purchasing larger first stacks than usual, in the hope of not to run out.
“And of course, we’re encouraging customers to start holiday shopping now. We’re taking pre-orders for new books. When the books arrive, we’ll put away all pre-ordered copies before the books are even on sale.”
Matt Keliher, Director of Subtext books in St. Paul, notes another problem – the sheer volume of cargo that shipping companies such as the US Postal Service, FedEx and UPS move these days, creating backlogs.
âSo an order I place on Monday that would normally be placed on Friday of the same week might not arrive until Wednesday or Thursday of the following week,â Keliher said.
“So what we’re asking people to do is shop early, but also shop with more flexibility. Ask a bookseller for an alternative or buy a gift card.”
TO Birch bark books in Minneapolis, booksellers said they had been affected by supply chain delays “in every way imaginable.” Many of their books come from smaller publishers with fewer resources, making printing and distribution even more difficult.
âWe urge our customers to shop early, but more importantly to step into the bookstore and allow our talented booksellers to help you,â they said. “Chances are, if a book you wanted is out of stock, our booksellers will have several similar recommendations.”
So why am I urging you to donate books despite these issues? Because books make wonderful gifts. Bookstores need you. The authors need you. Publishers need you. (For the record, Amazon doesn’t need you.) And if you can’t get the exact title you were hoping to give, booksellers can suggest 10 other books that would be as good, if not better.
said Angela Schwesnedl, co-owner of Books of the Palace of the Moon in Minneapolis, âIt’s not very often that there is only one good book for someone. some of the other department stores in town if we don’t have what they want, like we do every year. “
So jump online, pre-order from an independent, and not only will you be helping out your favorite bookstore, but with your shopping done early, you’ll find yourself with plenty of free time in November and December. It’s time to bake cookies!
Laurie Hertzel is the editor of the Star Tribune books. @StribBooks. Email: [email protected]