It’s safe to say that everyone in book publishing and printing knows there is a paper supply issue. How did we get here?

Good news: Print book sales are increasing! Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes, among many, have reported increased book sales of 8.9% in 2021, and that trend is continuing.

The bad news is that the COVID pandemic, labor shortage, and a trend of paper mills closing has created a paper shortage with no relief in sight. Many of the existing paper mills have switched from manufacturing book-grade paper to manufacturing cardboard–the increase in online shopping (thanks in part to you-know-who) has led to increased demand for boxes. Paper mills worried about the “decline of print” ten years ago (thinking eBooks would take over and the demand for book paper would decrease, an oversimplification) switched to cardboard. New paper mills are not being built to replace what’s gone. 

The remaining paper mills that are making book-grade paper are operating at full speed and still not meeting demand. So they’ve limited how much paper each printer or vendor can buy. Add to that both paper and cardboard rely on the same wood pulp sources, leading to an increase in cost and no increase in availability.

How will Bookmobile manage the paper shortage?

We are hard at work to manage our inventory more effectively. We have not had to do this ever in the 25+ years we’ve been printing books. Until 2021, if we needed paper, we’d call the vendor, paper would come. 

Now we’re starting to track and allocate our paper inventory, so we can order even further in advance and schedule accordingly. This is not a small feat for us: we carry thirteen interior stocks, plus factor in roll and sheet sizes, short- and long-grain.

What can you do?

Plan ahead, the longer you can allow for the print schedule, the safer you’ll be. Consider fine-tuning how you determine your print run quantity (I know, easier said than done). It’s not as easy to schedule a quick reprint anymore.

Currently our worst paper headache is the 55-lb. natural Rolland Enviro Book A 100% PCW. We have an allowance for this stock and we do run short of it every few months–-so longer print runs on 55-lb. natural Rolland Enviro Book A 100% PCW are delayed.

We don’t have substitutes for the 55-lb. natural Rolland Enviro Book A 100% PCW at this time. We carry one other natural stock: 80-lb. natural Cougar opaque smooth. We used to carry more options (45 lb. cream, 60 lb. natural), but they’ve been discontinued and we have yet to find any replacements, due to the paper mills limited capacity..

Consider White Paper!

Please consider white paper! So far, knock on wood, we do not have supply issues or a limit for:

50-lb. Boise offset white

60-lb. Boise offset white

You can also see our current paper stocks here.

In short

Thanks for making it to the end of this article! We really appreciate your patience in these times. Please know we are always working to ship your print jobs ASAP, without sacrificing quality.