Concerns for independent publishers over soaring printing costs caused by ‘perfect storm’

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Photo: Arne Depert/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

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.

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He told Scotland on Sunday: “At the moment 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 believes a rise in book prices is inevitable, adding: “The question is when and how much.”

He said: “The prices are too low. As a country, we don’t value our books. We don’t appreciate our literature. Look at what we do at our libraries, they are everywhere.

Mr Davidson 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 faced a 40 per cent rise when she compared the cost of a job to printing in October 2021 with one in 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.

He also believes that the price of books will have to increase.

Mr Guillory told Scotland on Sunday: “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 at the moment.

“If you look at the price of books in the United States or Australia, the prices are much higher than here.”

He said smaller publishers might have to raise the price of books, while larger publishers “probably can afford it” and absorb the costs.

He added: “I worry about them, 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 so many other people as well – the authors will be really hurt by it.”

Marion Sinclair, managing director of Publishing Scotland, said rising prices remained “a significant concern for this year”.

She added: “This, coupled with the difficulties of Brexit 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.”

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