Wherever you turn these days, people are talking about global supply chains. Shortages of everything from toilet paper to appliances to automobiles are vexing consumers and retailers alike. Unfortunately, publishing and bookselling are no different. The New York Times and Vox have both reported on how paper shortages, ink shortages, the closure of printing plants, and snarls in the global shipping industry have affected the publishing industry.
Here at Duke University Press we are feeling the effects of these issues as well. For the past few months, we have experienced delays at our printers that have led us to lengthen production schedules on all our Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 titles, adding four weeks on average to each schedule. We are also finding that it takes longer for books to ship from the printer to our warehouse, causing further delays. Reprints ordered when a book sells out of its initial printing are also delayed along with new books.
Global shipping delays are causing orders placed on our website to take longer to reach our customers. The US Postal Service has experienced delays and is officially lengthening their expected service times this month. Carriers like UPS and Federal Express also have driver shortages that increase domestic shipping times. International shipping is especially slow due to pile-ups at US ports and a decreased reliance on air shipments for packages. CBS Sunday Morning covered these issues earlier this month and the New York Times recently wrote about the backlog at ports.
We initially set schedules for books about 11-12 months from publication. Some authors and customers who have been tracking the schedule of a Fall 2021 or Spring 2022 title may have seen one publication date a few months ago, and a new one this fall. We know this change is frustrating. It’s frustrating to the media as well, who count on knowing a pub date at least six months out to plan their coverage. And it’s frustrating for our staff, planning their work.
Director of Editing, Design, and Production Amy Ruth Buchanan says, “In my 26 years in publishing, this supply chain crisis is one of the worst disruptions we have ever had to navigate. Understaffed printing plants, paper shortages, and freight challenges are converging to make this season extraordinarily difficult to manage. Every time an advance arrives in my mailbox I celebrate!”
One side effect of the delays has been that our e-books are now available several weeks before our print books. Customers who are especially eager to read a book that has been delayed can purchase the e-book or get it through their library while they wait for the print. We hope this will be helpful if a book has already been scheduled for a syllabus or an event was planned months ago. If the e-book is available for a title, you’ll see a list of links to the various retailers beneath the price on our website.
As we navigate these delays, we ask for your patience. If you would like to order books for the holidays, we suggest you shop now. If you wish to have a book shipped outside of North and South America, we encourage you to order from our UK-based distributor, Combined Academic Publishers. They will often honor our coupon codes. Canadian customers can consider ordering from their favorite local bookstore, who may be able to get stock directly from our Canadian distributor and avoid border delays.
If you are serving on an awards committee and a book you’re expecting to be submitted hasn’t arrived, please reach out to us and ask about it. It may be stuck in transit. Similarly, let us know if a review copy hasn’t reached you.
We’re doing our best to keep our authors updated as soon as we know of any schedule delay. We suggest that authors not schedule any events or book launches until at least six weeks after your project editor tells you your book will be in our warehouse. If you have questions about your book’s schedule you can contact either your project editor or your publicist.
We see these disruptions lasting at least through fall 2022 and again ask for your patience as an author, customer, bookseller, or reviewer.