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Printer jam: Serious supply issues disrupt the book industry’s 2020 fall season

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  1. skybrian
    (edited )
    Oops, this is from last year but I’ll leave it up anyway. (Apparently there are still problems this year.) From the 2020 article: […] […] […]

    Oops, this is from last year but I’ll leave it up anyway. (Apparently there are still problems this year.) From the 2020 article:

    Books that were bumped from spring and early summer are landing all at once, colliding with long-planned fall releases and making this one of the most crowded fall publishing seasons ever. And now publishers are confronting a new hurdle: how to print all those books.

    The two largest printing companies in the United States, Quad and LSC Communications, have been under intense financial strain, a situation that has grown worse during the pandemic. LSC declared bankruptcy in April, and the company’s sales fell nearly 40 percent in the fiscal quarter that ended June 30, a drop that the company attributed partly to the closure of retailers during the pandemic and the steep fall of educational book sales. In September, LSC’s assets will be put up for auction. Quad’s book printing business is also up for sale; this spring, the company had to temporarily shut down its printers at three plants due to the pandemic.

    At the same time, there has been a surprising spike in sales for print books, a development that would normally be cause for celebration, but is now forcing publishers to scramble to meet surging demand.


    The backlog at the printers is creating havoc for authors and publishers. Reprints for books that are selling well, which normally take two weeks, are sometimes taking more than a month.


    Print runs for new titles are getting squeezed and pushed back. Carefully calibrated publication schedules are being blown up as books are moved into late fall and even next year.


    Publishers have been struggling with capacity issues at the printers for several years. In 2018, the 125-year-old company Edwards Brothers Malloy closed. A proposed merger between Quad and LSC fell through last year after the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the deal. More than a decade ago, when e-book sales were growing, many printing companies believed that digital would eventually overtake print sales, and so for years there was little capital investment in printing infrastructure. But then sales of print books started to rebound and have held steady; printers have been playing catch-up.

    In recent months, the pandemic and shutdown have put even more financial strain on printing companies, as printers have faced a sharp drop in academic and textbook sales.

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