Russian Book Market: Paper Shortages and Prices Challenge Recovery

From Publishing Perspectives:

Russian book publishers have reported a significant increase in production costs this year, describing a substantial level of pressure on their business. Book-price increases and production cuts appear to be likely, as a result.

The key challenge is in a shortage of offset-print paper in the domestic market and a sharp rise in paper prices.

The cost of paper is reported to have risen by some 10 percent to 80,000 rubles per unit (US$1,100).

Russia was acknowledged in November in an article by Oliver Yorke for the non-profit Earth.org to hold 23 percent of the world’s forested land. At some 814 million hectares (2.1 billion acres), rapid deforestation has alarmed environmentalists who cite longtime trends in illegal logging and confused classification of land tracts (as forested or agricultural).

Despite the wealth of forest resources, Russia’s book market traditionally has imported 80 percent of its paper from abroad. Prior to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, most paper products were supplied to Russia by China and member-states of the European Union.

Reports indicate, however, that for the last year—since mid-2020—the volume of such supplies getting into Russia has declined amid border closures and other elements of contagion spread-mitigation measures and regulations.

That reduction of paper imports has had a negative effect on the Russian book market, executives say, and has led to shutdowns among some localized publishing companies.

. . . .

Konstantin Lun, production director of the Moscow-based business-book publisher Alpina, says to Publishing Perspectives that the current situation in the market is complex.

“Our fears are confirmed,” he says, “as a shortage of offset paper and a significant increase of prices for it has already led to a rise in the cost of books. Of course, that jump in price is a very serious problem for the industry, but in the end, it will be passed on to the customer.

“In any case, it creates an increased risk level for a publisher.”

Tatiana Doroshina, director of the Molodaya Gvardiya (“Young Guard”) publishing house—a specialist in fiction and popular science—echoes the urgency Lun refers to.

“In addition to the increase in prices for printing services and materials which primarily took place at the end of 2020,” Doroshina says, “our colleagues at the printing houses at the end of March this year sent us letters warning of a sharp, unpredictable increase in prices for materials and especially for paper and cardboard.

“So far, the cost of producing books in domestic printing houses has increased by 20 to 22 percent.”

. . . .

An interesting take on the paper shortage issue surfaces in talking with publishers who point to an overall drop in demand for i in the international marketplace, something that could reflect the widely observed “digital acceleration” of consumers’ adoption of electronic-reading formats during the 2020 pandemic year.

In Russia, pulp and paper mills are have seen dwindling profits, triggering higher prices for what does get sold, say publishers.

According to publishers, Russian book prices may see a hike of as much as 10 percent.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives