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Book shortage impacts holiday shopping at Madison bookstores

Labor and supply shortages impacting the number of books on shelves.
The bookstore Mystery to Me battles the problems of the book shortage.
The bookstore Mystery to Me battles the problems of the book shortage.(Colton Molesky)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 8:50 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Halloween is right around the corner, but for those with books on the Christmas shopping list, it might be time to get ahead of the shopping curve due to a national shortage of books.

Demand for print books is exploding during the pandemic. NPD Bookscan says print book sales are up 13.2% from 2020 to 2021 and 21% from 2019 to 2021. Unfortunately, supply is not meeting demand.

China, one of the top countries manufacturing wood pulp (the material that makes paper), closed over 250 paper mills, helping force the cost of wood pulp to nearly double. Prices like that encourage paper mills to produce cardboard, which is cheaper and in-demand with the only shopping boom.

Labor shortages have also hurt the industry.

There are not enough employees working printing presses or driving trucks to get books into book stores. All these challenges are forcing bookstores in Madison to order in bulk early.

The bookstore Mystery to Me ordered twice and three times what the store typically does in June, preparing for the holiday season.

“Some of the books we ordered back in June were supposed to come by early October,” said owner Joanne Berg. “But have been delayed until late November.”

She says plenty of people are already getting Christmas book shopping done right now and others ordering books to the store.

Berg says the best thing to do is get ahead of the demand because the book you are looking for likely will not be on the shelf come December.

“With how the demand has grown, and how backed up things are due to supply chain problems and labor shortages, it’s better to get it done sooner rather than later.”

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