Australians have been warned that they should do their Christmas shopping as early as possible due to the impact of international supply chain problems on global shipping. Books are one industry that is feeling the pressure, as printers, publishers, and booksellers across Australia, the United States, and Britain feel the impact during their busiest time of the year.
Chris Redfern, who owns three Avenue Bookstores in Melbourne, recently told ABC that booksellers face “a crisis”.
In The United States, paper and cardboard shortages are affecting the situation in the printing press.
A shortage in the UK is restricting stock movement. The supply chain in Australia is also affected. The three largest book distributors in Australia use the same company to distribute books. This company, according to reports, is “overloaded with demand.”
It’s sensible to use a single freight service provider in order to control costs, but this is a risky strategy, especially when the flow cycle is so disrupted.
A problem for smaller players
The supply chain operations are well-coordinated. The goal is to deliver the correct product in the best way possible, with the perfect quantity and quality, to the appropriate person at the proper time and the lowest cost.
Most booksellers widely adopt the principles of lean supplies. They aim to reduce costs and waste resources on books that sit in warehouses.
In most cases, the risk associated with being able to respond quickly to market changes is minimal for publishers, input providers, printers, and transporters.
Independent bookshops usually only have a few copies per book but can respond quickly to customer demand. Hatice Yardim/Unsplash
Even a single part of the COVID system that is stressed can cause stress to the delicate balance.
Publishers in the US are encouraging bulk purchasing and early ordering and maintaining large quantities of inventory to satisfy consumer demand. The large Australian book retailers QBD and Booktopia are organized in similar ways.
Smaller players, like independent bookshops, are less able than larger ones to purchase in bulk and maintain large inventories. They will order what they think they can reasonably sell and then quickly order more books if demand increases.
In Australia, there are about 1,900 bookshops that contribute A$1.4 billion towards the economy. The majority of the market, 84%, is made up of small players.
Read more: Love of bookshops in a time of Amazon and populism
Even pre-COVID, the industry has been under increasing pressure. Between 2016 and 2021, the sector contracted by 6.1%, and it was expected to continue to fall. Printing of books was on the decline, and many bookstores shut or reduced their capacity.
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all aspects of the paper, printing, binding, and logistics industries. When COVID struck, the demand for books increased as people sought out amusements to get through the lockdown. A sudden surge in demand forced a declining industry to catch up.
The demand for books has increased during COVID-19. Matias North/Unsplash
Bookstores are still a good place to buy books.
But supply chain issues should not affect our reading. eBooks are a new, innovative and affordable form of book that does not require many of the steps of the traditional supply chain.
The technology allows readers to download books instantly and at a very low price. Print books are still popular.
In 2020, only 15.9% of Australians bought an ebook. However, 41.2% bought a physical book. This is in stark contrast with music sales. In Australia, physical music sales accounted for only 11% of revenue in 2020.
Read more: Has the print book trumped digital? Beware of glib conclusions
It has been suggested people prefer the physical texture of books, and our brains are hardwired to process analog information inherently. In spite of the promising adoption of new reading technologies, we remain wedded to the printed word – but even this doesn’t mean we should remain married to supply chains.
There are several ways for avid readers to satisfy their book addiction. Shutterstock