Publishers say they are grappling with increases of up to 40% in printing costs due to a “perfect storm” of factors including Brexit and the pandemic.
Robert Davidson, managing director of Highlands-based publisher Sandstone Press, said the most damaging thing is uncertainty.
He said Scotland Sunday“Right now, we have uncertainty, because who is going to decide that prices go up?
“If we and other small publishers raise our prices now, and the big publishers manage to keep their prices low because they’re printing in far greater numbers for authors and hit TV shows, celebrities, etc. , will the public continue to buy our books?”
Mr Davidson said he believed a rise in the price of books was inevitable, adding: ‘The question is when and how much.
He said: “We’ve done two reprints since this broke, and one came in at 4% above the previous price.
“The most recent, which we’re going through right now, is 6% higher. Now it’s actually a lot.”
Laura Jones, editor at Dead Ink and co-founder of Edinburgh-based 404 Ink, told trade magazine The Bookseller she saw a 40% increase when she compared the cost of a print job in October of last year with that of January.
She said such an increase could “push a number of publishers into loss or possibly closure.”
Robbie Guillory, a literary agent who previously worked in publishing, said he had clients whose books had been delayed due to paper shortages.
He said there had been a “perfect storm” of issues contributing to the problem.
Mr Guillory said: “Margins are already so tight for publishers, when you consider that the price of a paperback hasn’t really gone up in the last 20, 30 years.
“A paperback is the same as two Christmas cards from Paperchase or something.
“I don’t think we’re paying the real value of the books right now.”
Mr Guillory said smaller publishers may have to raise the price of books, while larger publishers “can probably afford it” and absorb the costs.
He added: “I worry about them. I think we have to pay more for our books because they are worth more.
“It’s not just going to affect publishers, it’s going to affect a lot of other people as well. Authors will be really hurt by this.”
Marion Sinclair, managing director of Publishing Scotland, said rising prices remained “a significant concern for this year”.
She said: “This, coupled with the Brexit difficulties related to selling in the EU and the impacts of the pandemic, makes things very difficult for small and medium-sized publishers in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“The retail price of books has been static for some time and represents incredible value – UK readers benefit from low prices in a fiercely competitive market – but this means publishers’ margins are squeezed which will have a chilling effect .on what they are able to command and their conditions for writers.”