High costs pose new challenges for publishers

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A file photo of the Amar Ekushey Book Fair at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka. — Sourav Lasker

Academic and creative book publishers, who have already braved two years of turmoil during the Covid pandemic, are now facing a further blow due to rising paper and ink prices as well as printing and printing costs. binding.

Many publishers fear that there will be fewer titles this year than in previous years due to high book production costs.

There will also be fewer new titles and reprints at the next Ekushey book fair in February 2023, they said, adding that book prices will also be high.

Mowla Brothers owner Ahmed Mahmudul Haque, who believes creative book publishers still need to grow as an industry, said the survival of publishers mainly depends on book sales during the fair of Ekushey.

Publishing houses, especially smaller ones, have been hit hard by the Covid outbreak as high production costs this time around could put them at risk, he said.

“There are around 200 professional publishers of academic and creative books, generating business of around Tk 1,000 crore per year. Some 4,500 to 5,000 people are directly involved in the business,” said Farid Ahmed, owner and editor of Somoy Prokashon.

Farid noted that paper and ink prices and printing and binding costs had mostly started to rise since June this year.

Paper prices have skyrocketed in recent months, he said, adding that publishers generally use locally produced 80GSM offset paper which now costs Tk2,800 a ream, compared to Tk1,700-1,800 in april.

“The price of a pound of locally produced black ink has recently increased from Tk 500 to Tk 700, while printing and binding costs have increased by around 50-60%,” he added. .

In addition, he noted, the cost of labor has ballooned due to rising commodity and fuel oil prices.

Power cuts have also made the situation worse, he said, concluding that all of this could drive up creative book prices by around 50-60%.

Earlier, on June 28, Iftekhar Ahmed, Deputy Managing Director of Partex Paper Mills, said that paper prices were on the rise due to rising pulp prices in the international market.

He went on to say that high dollar conversion rates and rising transport costs also forced them to raise paper prices.

Some publishers said they had already decided to publish and reprint selected books to avoid losses. They also anticipate fewer buyers due to the soaring cost of living.

“A book that used to cost Tk300 would now cost around Tk500,” said Md Monirul Hoque, owner of Ananya publishing house.

“Before, we published around a hundred titles a year. This time we will only release maybe 10 which may sell well in the [next Ekushey] book fair,” he added.

The owner of Bhashachitra publishing company, Khandakar Momenul Islam, said his house could not publish good books on films and journalism due to the Covid outbreak. He also won’t be able to publish the books this time if the costs don’t come down, he despaired.

“We have also become selective about the release of reprints, as the cost of reprints will increase by 25-30%. Only important and best-selling books will be given priority,” said Mowla Brothers owner Ahmed Mahmudul Haque.

Publishers pointed out that the main buyers of academic and creative books are students and middle-class people. They feared that sales would drop due to the soaring cost of living.

“The cost of publication continues to increase while the number of buyers decreases. Readers don’t want to buy books if they are expensive,’ said Bhashachitra’s Momenul Islam.

“Prices have risen in all walks of life. So it will be difficult for students to spend a lot of money on books. Publishing houses will be in trouble,” Prakriti Porichoy owner Firoz Ahmed said.

He said, however, that not all houses would face the crisis, adding that publishers on the government’s book buying list were less vulnerable.

If books became expensive, some of them, especially those that sold well, could be pirated, some publishers feared.

“Highly demanded titles could be pirated. In such a situation, the original publisher would lose money and the writers would be deprived of their royalty,” said the owner of Mowla Brothers.

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