The Corona crisis has also shaken up the paper industry: Because online orders have increased massively, the packaging industry needs more pulp. All of a sudden, this substance, which is obtained from wood and is the raw material for paper production, is a rare commodity.
"The market for pulp, which is needed for books, is mainly siphoned off by countries with growing domestic demand," an Orell Füssli spokesman told AWP news agency.
But it is not only pulp that paper manufacturers are lacking. There is also a shortage of recovered paper, which is needed for the production of newsprint, for example. "Fewer quantities of recovered paper have been produced and therefore less recovered paper could be recycled," says a spokeswoman for the Swiss Paper, Board and Foil Manufacturers' Association (SPKF).
Less advertising gives less waste paper
This is partly due to the fact that companies scaled down their advertising activities last year - for example, printed brochures or newspaper inserts. As a result, less waste paper was generated. According to SPKF, however, the decline in waste paper is a long-term trend, as a look at the statistics of the Recycling Papier + Karton (RP+K) association also shows.
In addition, there was a fire at the Perlen Papier company last Thursday. As a result, the company can temporarily supply less paper. Perlen Papier is the only manufacturer of press paper in Switzerland and the largest recycler of waste paper in the country. As a result of the fire, Tamedia, NZZ and CH Media will have to print thinner newspapers than usual until the end of October, the publishers jointly announced on Monday.
Rising prices for transport and energy are also putting pressure on paper manufacturers: "The price of energy is going absolutely crazy at the moment. Gas has risen by around 300 to 600 percent, depending on the order period," explained Swiss Quality Paper on behalf of the SPKF. Electricity prices have also doubled.
There is hardly anything in the paper production industry that has not become at least 10 percent more expensive since the fourth quarter of last year, according to another SPKF member who does not want to be named.
Publishers pay 10 percent more
Paper manufacturers cannot bear these price increases alone, but must pass them on to their customers - the publishers and printers. "There were some price increases in the second half of 2021, but they do not cover the rising costs by far," explains Chemie + Papier Holding, to which Perlen Papier belongs. There will be further price increases, it adds.
Book and newspaper publishers now have to pay up to 10 percent more for the paper they need, as they explain in unison. According to Carsten Schwab, head of production at Diogenes Verlag, paper accounts for just under half of the production costs for books.
"But it goes far beyond the papers," Schwab said. "Adhesives, inks, carrier films and even the wooden pallets on which the books are stacked for transport have also become more expensive."
Because paper is so hard to come by, there are also delays. "Fortunately, the printers always have the material in stock for Diogenes paperbacks and hardcovers. But for art books, children's books - especially cardboard picture books - or otherwise specially designed books, there are currently delivery problems, some of them considerable," says Schwab.
This is problematic for publishers, as Tanja Messerli from the Swiss Booksellers and Publishers Association (SBVV) explains: "A book gets media attention when it is newly published," she says. If it takes longer than two to three weeks for the book to hit the bookstore shelves, the customer attention is already over.
No more expensive store prices foreseen
Despite all the odds, publishers do not want to pass on the price increases for books to consumers for the time being. "So far, the increase in paper prices has not yet been reflected in store prices," says Schwab. This is because book prices would develop much more slowly than raw material prices.
The Zurich-based publisher of teaching materials says it is carefully monitoring the situation surrounding the shortage of raw materials. "No price increases have been made for teaching materials," the publisher says. Orell Füssli also states that it is planning for the long term and is ordering paper in bundles, which is why the increasing demand for paper is having "hardly any effect on book prices at present".
According to Tanja Messerli from the SBCV, however, Swiss publishers can't simply screw up their prices either: after all, the Swiss book market is tied to prices in Germany. "That's because we import about 80 percent of German-language books," she says. What is becoming more expensive, however, is shipping books.
However, the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association) had recently suggested that the high procurement costs for paper and the shortage of paper for books could have an "ultimate impact" on book prices. This in turn could affect Swiss book prices. (AWP/Tabea von Ow)