Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 1: Book Production & Distribution

February 23, 2022
Janice Butler
David Taylor
Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 1: Book Production & Distribution

As a global book distribution and services company with operations and relationships as a wholesaler in addition to our publisher services, we at Ingram have a unique perspective on the challenges facing the publishing industry over the past year and into 2022.

With our industry knowledge and expertise, we’ve compiled a 2-part blog series on the key global trends affecting book production and consumer behavior, and how publishers have responded. In this part 1 article, we’ll focus on the trends affecting book production and distribution.

Supply Chain and Logistics Pressures
PEW Research Center

Supply Chain and Logistics Pressures

According to the PEW Research Center, inflation is happening in almost every country, with the US being one of the top countries effected. There's not a part of the book industry that's immune to the pressures that we see across the supply chain. Like a virus, inflation in the labor market impacts all materials needed to manufacture books.


Paper Shortages and Shipping Costs

To no surprise, the most significant of these impacts under recent constraints are paper shortages and shipping prices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the cost of a container ship shipping from Shanghai to LA is projected to reach a 50% to75% increase.

FedEx and UPS have also reported a 6% increase for their transportation services in 2022.

From the charts below, we’ve mapped out the number of price increases throughout 2021 for the US and UK paper markets. In both cases, there was an average 10% to 12% increase. This has and will continue to spill into 2022 as the year moves on.

FRED Economic Data
FRED Economic Data

There are several factors contributing to the increased cost of paper, including:

·       Staffing Issues - finding staff and keeping them healthy.

·       Shipping Delays - transporting materials to manufacturers.

·       Plant Closures – print plants closing or being converted.

These transportation delays and inflated costs are all starting to drive new behaviors in our clients and publishers—forcing the market to find plausible solutions to this growing issue.


The Shift to Local Manufacturing

There has been a push towards utilizing local manufacturing to combat the rising cost of shipment and transportation delays. Many publishers benefit from the printing in-market model when supplying their international distribution needs. 

Finding printers in Asia, Europe, and other markets that can supply the needs in those regions cuts out the need for excessive international shipping.

Replacing print runs in the US or your home markets for short runs in markets where the book is being purchased can lead to:

·       Less cost

·       Faster delivery

·       Reduced carbon output

The graphic below represents Ingram’s change in carbon emissions between printing locally in the UK versus shipping overseas or via air. As you can see, the local shipping vastly reduces carbon output.

Calculated July 2021 from DHL Carbon Calculator
Calculated July 2021 from DHL Carbon Calculator

Warehouses! And Lots of Them

A massive trend hoping to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping (while also alleviating shipping delays) is the use of warehouses. Since the mid-'80s, there's been a considerable shift to online bookselling, only to be exaggerated to new heights due to today’s Covid crisis.The impact of that is the booming growth of warehouses in various countries, with online trade fueling a lot of them. This is a trend we see continuing into 2022. 

How Publishers are Responding

We can segment how publishers have been responding over the past year into five overlapping trends:

1. Catalog Review and Management

A growing number of publishers are looking at their entire catalog and asking, "Is my backlist more applicable for digital printing than it may have been in the past?" This sort of questioning is changing how publishers manage their inventory, allowing them to: 

  • Move their catalogs into a digital short-run or a pure print-on-demand model, which frees up capital to use toward frontlist titles. 
  • Have a conversation about the retail pricing of their titles catalog wide. As titles are moved into shorter run models, the likelihood of increasing the price of those titles is high. Of our clients releasing their frontlist, we're now seeing many at slightly higher price points than in the past.

2. Planning Ahead

As we’ve settled into 2022 we’ve seen some printers in the market are not taking new orders through the first half of the year due to limited capacity. Combine this with delayed shipping times, and we’re now seeing publishers go to press four to six months in advance of their book’s publication date.

Supply chain and transportation delays are also impacting books getting from warehouses to retailers on time, resulting in slower retailer pickups. Planning ahead allows publishers to ensure their books are where they need to be on time, despite delays.


3. Diversifying Formats and Suppliers

In today's market, it's best to have numerous print vendor relationships. In tandem with diversified files like ebooks and audiobooks, titles can be used at offset press as well as digital or print-on-demand printers—giving you the option of short-run in case of delays in your schedule.  

When publishers diversify formats, they’re also giving consumers somewhere to go if the print book is not available.

4. Reducing Print Runs

We’ve also seen publishers printing to sales rather than printing to stock, which allows them to focus more resources toward evergreen titles and predictable selling titles. When publishers don't have a large amount of stock sitting in a warehouse, they're not incurring excess inventory fees, which allows for more flexible retail pricing on future printings.


5. Printing in Local Markets

Smaller print runs also give publishers the flexibility to print some titles in the US, some in the UK, some in Europe and Asia, etc. By taking advantage of printing in local markets rather than sending products over long distances, they can quickly get books to consumers and warehouses while mitigating transit issues. This also helps them print and distribute their titles in a more sustainable way, by lessening  their carbon footprint.

In summary, supply chain issues have a lock on just about every industry, but it’s not the end of the world. By following trends and keeping an eye on the market, we can successfully mitigate risk and overcome issues through thoughtful and ethical solutions—which consumers pay close attention to.


Truth be told, Covid-19 and the rise in transportation costs have not only affected the way businesses run their operations, but also the way consumers shop and interact with brands on a day-to-day basis. Be sure to check out part 2 of this series, where we dive deeper into key trends in consumer behavior and how it’s affecting both publishers and readers alike.

Global Trends Affecting Publishers, Part 1: Book Production & Distribution
Janice Butler

Janice Butler

Janice Butler is a Senior Manager of ICG Services at Ingram Content Group where she leads the team that helps Ingram's Distribution publishers navigate the many services Ingram offers, including tools to expand a catalogue's global reach, plus inventory management solutions through Ingram's print and digital network. Janice began her career at Ingram in 2007, working with Lightning Source print services as well as Ingram's Digital Services. She has been focused on supporting distribution publishers since 2017 working closely with publishers of all sizes to help grow their business. Janice has previously served on the Board of Directors of IBPA from and continues to participate as a member of the IBPA Board Nominating Committee.

David Taylor

David Taylor

David Taylor is the Senior VP, Content Acquisition International for Ingram Content Group and Group Managing Director, Lightning Source UK. He has 32 years of experience in the UK and international book trades in a wide range of senior management positions including online bookselling, retail bookselling and library supply for both books and journals. He is a former Director of Blackwell’s international library supply business. He served on the Booksellers’ Association of the UK and Ireland’s Council for several years and is a former Chairman of the College and University Bookseller’s Group and the Internet Bookseller’s Group, the latter of which he founded. He is a regular speaker at book trade conferences and has published a number of articles on the impact that new technologies are having on the book trade supply chain. He is a member of the Book Society, formerly known as The Society of Bookmen.

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