Czech book market struggling with paper shortage

 Publishing houses in the Czech Republic are struggling with a shortage of paper and cardboard, which, in some cases, forces them to postpone the release of planned titles. As a result, there could be fewer books in stores at Christmas and the prices of books could increase in the future.

The Czech book market has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid pandemic and the related restrictions, which forced the country’s bookstores to close for several months last year.

Now, publishers in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe are struggling with a different problem – a shortage of paper and cardboard. For large publishers, this could mean lost sales in the millions of crowns.

Antonín Kočí, head of Euromedia Group, one of the leading publishing houses in the Czech Republic, says the problem is caused mainly by rising prices of timber. As a result, his company is being forced to reduce the number of copies they planned to release:

“It has to do with timber logging. We are using the same timber as American companies that build houses in the United States and Canada. China also has a huge consumption of timber, so its prices are sky-rocketing, and there's just not enough of it for other uses.”

Photo: Eva Turečková,  Radio Prague International

Although the situation is not critical, Martin Vopěnka, chairman of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, says it could affect the prices of books in the future:

“Unfortunately, paper will definitely become more expensive. Only a significant strengthening of the crown could offset this problem. In the next few years, this will be reflected in the price of other commodities, just as with the price of energy and everything else.”

According to Antonín Kočí of Euromedia Group, the price of their books could rise by up to 20 percent. Another major Czech publisher, Albatros Media, also expects their prices to grow, says one of its managers, Petr Baláš:

“Unfortunately, some of the increasing costs will be reflected in the prices of books. However, I don’t expect the hike to be too dramatic. I think it will be several dozen crowns per title.”

By the end of the year, Albatros Media plans to publish some 400 titles. But the shortage of paper will also affect smaller publishers, such as Paseka, who only release around 50 titles a year, says its director, Jakub Sedláček:

“Publishing houses usually try to release all their new titles by mid-November. If you do it later, bookstores are already filled with so many new books that it’s actually too late.”

According to data from the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, there were some 14,117 titles printed in the Czech Republic last year, which was nearly 19 percent less than in 2019. To what extent the Czech book market will be affected by the current shortage of paper, remains to be seen.