One of my favorite gifts to receive for Christmas is a book from a friend or family member. A book is the kind of gift that can tell a person that you listen to them, that you hear them, and that you get them. One Christmas, my dad and I handed each other a wrapped gift, and as we tore the paper off we both laughed to find that each had gotten the other a signed copy of a book by Bill Bryson.
This year, books are going to be harder to come by for the Holiday season. There are many reasons for this, but the easiest explanation is that supply issues compacted by the ongoing pandemic have created a perfect storm to keep books off of store shelves and out of the hands of readers.
Another reason, and one that many find surprising, is that people are reading more than they have in years. "The pandemic has unleashed an extraordinary amount of reading and buying of books," said the CEO of Barnes & Noble. When you're stuck at home and have already binged every show on Netflix, a good book is a no-brainer. Like Groucho Marx said, "Outside of a dog a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
On the supply side, book printing is already a slow process, which is now compounded by truck driver shortages, congestion at ports, and skyrocketing transportation costs. And that's all after a book has already been printed. I'm sure that most of you noticed the increase in the cost of wood lumber over the last year or two. Along with the price of lumber, the price of wood pulp used in printing rose from $700–$750 per metric ton in 2020 to almost $1,200 per metric ton in 2021. The same issues that have caused this rise in paper prices have caused a similar rise in the price of ink, not to mention the cardboard boxes that ink, paper, and the finished books are all packaged in.
Presses themselves have been struggling to keep up with demand for over a decade. Press owners assumed demand for print books would quickly wane with the introduction of e-readers like Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook, but the exact opposite has occurred, with demand for new print books actually increasing steadily from 2008 on. Some presses were consolidated or closed, and the ones that are left are struggling to meet demand.
What does this mean for you? Well, it means that if you are like me, the kind of person who enjoys giving books as gifts, you might want to get an early start on your Holiday buying. If you're thinking of buying a copy of Texas Jack for yourself or a loved one, I'm happy to inscribe and sign copies for you. Just head over to https://www.dimelibrary.com/shop and let me know how you'd like me to sign it for you. For now, copies are still available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at many great independent bookstores.