British Columbia book publishers are welcoming additional funding to offset rising printing and shipping costs, but also calling for more predictable funding.
Matea Kulic, executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., said $600,000 over three years represents a “much-needed boost” for the industry. Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport Lana Popham announced the money Monday afternoon as the provincial legislature hosted publishers as part of B.C. Book Day.
A third of the money goes toward supply chain issues, Popham said. The rest will help book and magazine publishers remain “agile to increase innovation and competitiveness” within the evolving industry. Popham pointed to competition from multi-national publishers as well as digital companies undercutting brick-and-mortar book stores.
The funding comes as the provincial book and magazine publishing industry continues to deal with rising costs.
“2020 we saw a big decline in book sales as can be expected, just with book stores being closed, a lot of disruption in supply chains,” Kulic said. “That has followed into 2021 and 2022. (We) are seeing some recovery in the industry, for sure … but we are also seeing a lot of challenges.”
While “not a huge amount of money” when broken down per publisher, Monday’s funding announcement supports publishers dealing with additional paper and printing costs and economies of scale, Kulic said.
ABPBC represents 26 publishers releasing about 1,000 titles per year with sales totaling just over $100 million. It had lobbied the province for assistance, citing the effects of the pandemic and its aftermath.
Rising costs for printing, shipping and distribution have been hurting the industry, ABPBC said in its submission.
Victoria-based Orca Book Publishers, for example, has seen average printing costs go up 27 per cent since the start of 2021.
BC-based publishers have also seen what ABPBC has called “significant” shipping price increases. According to the association, general parcel rates for carriers like CanPar, Canada Post and UPS have increased by almost 15 per cent since 2020 on top of rising fuel surcharges.
While publishers and distributors are working hard to limit these higher expenses, their options are limited, ABPBC said.
“Publishing has always been a low-margin business, but the last two years have been particularly challenging because of the increasing costs of production and the increased challenges around getting products to market,” it reads.
Book publishers in BC could mark up books to generate more revenue, but they have little room to do so. “We are competing against larger publishers and distributors with different economies of scale,” it reads.
Monday’s announcement raises the question of why taxpayers should support a private industry. Kulic acknowledged that many other industries face the same issues.
“I think we’re seeing that especially arts and culture industries require this kind of support,” Kulic said. “But I think we have to remember that this is cultural content that provides cultural value.”
Books play an important educational role and tell important stories to society move forward, allowing British Columbians to be compassionate and understanding, she added.
Kulic praised provincial and federal governments for their support during the pandemic.
“We have a very supportive (provincial) government right now, which is fantastic,” Kulic said. “But what the industry would really like to see is stable, predictable funding.”
That type of funding would help publishers build their businesses, she added.