National paper shortage impacting eastern Iowa bookstores

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 10:34 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -The pandemic has taken a toll on many industries, print books and publishing included.

Nationally, print book sales in the first six months of 2021 are up 18.5% from the same time period 2020, according to Publishers Weekly.

Now, Bart Carithers, owner of Next Page Books in Cedar Rapids, isn’t worried about demand, but supply. He said he was actually able to grow his customer base during the pandemic, using social media and offering temporary delivery services.

Now, Carithers is facing a different challenge, and working hard in advance of the holiday months to make sure he has enough supply in stock before getting books in the store gets more difficult.

“Typically during the holiday season, I will beef up inventory and have enough books to get through a couple of weeks. But there’s never been a problem if I was running low or ran out of a specific book, to just place another order and get that book in two or three days,” Carithers said. “That’s not going to be the case this year with the paper shortage.”

Carithers said his suppliers are anticipating major delays, especially with bestselling books, due to supply chain issues and a national paper shortage. He’s having to order books in larger supply than normal, earlier than normal.

”For example, in the last couple weeks, I have bought 12 copies of maybe 20-25 books. I would never do that. But I need to do that this year to make sure that I have the book here in the store,” Carithers said.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library is already seeing delays in new releases due to the pandemic. Erin Horst, the library’s materials manager, said publishing has been hit hard by the pandemic over the last year and a half, and the impact is gradually getting larger.

“We are just beginning to see some effects when it comes to like large print titles, and books that have say a smaller number of materials printed. So we have placed our orders months ahead of time,” Horst said.

Horst said that library patrons should expect to see longer hold lists than usual this winter. She added that books by less well-known authors could be harder to find than more popular names.

”When it comes to those authors who maybe don’t have a big audience at this point, they’re just not getting quite the amount of circulation that they would be getting otherwise,” Horst said. “Also people love new books, they just want to look around and see what’s new and when we just don’t have nearly as many new items that absolutely affects how much we see.”

Both Horst and Carithers are asking for patience going into the holiday months.

Carithers recommended that people start shopping much earlier than normal, to guarantee what they want will be on the shelf.

“I’ve started promoting ‘October is the new December.’ Because if they come out shopping, especially if they know the books they’re looking for, now would be a good time to get them because we know we have them in stock or we can easily order them,” Carithers said. “That may not be the case in November or December.”

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