According to Ingram Content Group the trends most likely to impact book publishers in 2022 include price inflation due in part to higher shipping and printing costs because of supply chain disruptions, and book consumers continuing to shift toward online shopping and digital content consumption. The news was delivered in a webinar February 2 hosted by the wholesale and distribution company in a session featuring Janice Butler, senior manager of services for Ingram Content Group; Pete McCarthy, director of consumer insights; and David Taylor, senior v-p of international content acquisition for Ingram Content Group U.K.
Paper prices increased 10%-12% in 2021 and are likely to go up more in 2022, noted Butler. Paper supplies will continue to be constrained, Butler explained, with one paper plant having closed last year and others converting to producing cardboard to feed the demand from online retailers who need boxes for shipping. When it comes to shipping, “container costs have seen an increase of 50%-70%,” Butler said, with travel times from China to the U.S., taking up to16 weeks and shipping from the U.S. to the U.K taking as many as 10 days. In the U.S., domestic shipping delays remain commonplace, and both FedEx and UPS are predicting rate hikes of as much as 6%.
To compensate for supply chain problems, publishers have shifted more production to the U.S. and have lowered print runs. In addition, printing capacity in the U.S. remains constrained, which means publishers will need to be prepared to compete for space with printers. “Some printers in the U.S. have completely allocated their time for 2022 already,” Butler said. “Today, publishers need to print for sale, not for stock,” McCarthy added.
The net result of all this activity is publishers may feel the need to raise book prices.
Consumer behavior is also changing. The growth in online shopping prompted by the pandemic brought more new consumers into the market for books, with book websites coming in at #19 in a list of the top #20 most visited categories of pages on the internet – ahead of “fashion and lifestyle” sites, said McCarthy.
“Combined unit sales [for books] were up 9% in the U.S. and 5% in the U.K., last year, which is a good thing,” said McCarthy, who noted that consumers were increasingly aware of where they were buying their books and placing an emphasis on buying at stores that contribute to their communities. He highlighted the success and continued growth in traffic to Bookshop.org as proof of this trend. “Those consumers [who shopped at Bookshop in 2020] haven’t gone back to leverage their Amazon Prime account,” said McCarthy. When it comes to book consumption, 61% of people have bought books both in bookstores and online, with 26% saying they shop only online and 13% saying they buy books exclusively from bricks-and-mortar stores.
When it comes to digital sales, e-book sales may have fallen 5% in 2021 compared with 2020, but were still 6% higher than 2019; some 30% of readers said they had read an e-book in the last year, compared with 23% who had listened to an audiobook and 65% had read a print book, according to the most recent PEW study, released in 2021.
Another notable trend from the last two years is that backlist books have outsold front ist titles, 2 to 1, some of it driven by spikes from social media attention on TikTok. While this may seem ephemeral and unpredictable – Ulysses by James Joyce is one book that has been a surprise beneficiary– it means publishers must consider how they will handle the supply chain for their entire list all at once, and be prepared to handle a sudden spike in interest.
Overall, the trend has been for more consumers to come into the market. “While I caution against anyone predicting trends based on the last two years, with three quarters of American adults saying they read books [in the past year], this can only be seen as a good thing,” said McCarthy.