Inflation and the energy crisis in Europe are driving up prices for many consumer goods, and Christmas books are likely to be no exception this year.
Books are a traditional and popular Christmas gift in Iceland, so much so that the months preceding Christmas see a “jólabókaflóð,” or flood of Christmas books. The tradition is said to have originated during the Second World War, when products from Europe became scarcer. Books were largely printed locally and were seen as cheap and easily available Christmas gifts.
In a statement to RÚV, chairman of the Association of Icelandic Book Publishers Heiðar Ingi Svansson stated that the industry hopes to avoid price increases as much as possible, but that some increases will be inevitable.
Heiðar outlined the factors contributing to rising costs: “the main ones are that the energy crisis in Europe is causing an increase in energy prices for the production of paper. In recent years, the supply of paper for book printing has also decreased due to the greater focus of paper manufacturers on producing paper for packaging production, due to the increase in online sales.”
Despite the energy crisis and rising costs, Heiðar says that the Icelandic publishing industry must still largely rely on Northern Europe for its needs. “The increase in transportation costs around the world and the fact that the state’s reimbursement of part of the production costs is limited to printing in Europe means that it is not possible for publishers to print books elsewhere in the world,” Heiðar stated. “Also, environmental considerations, including the carbon footprint, play a major role.”
Another factor keeping Icelandic publishing in Europe, and especially Germany, is the increasing time frame for printing books. Years ago, when paper was cheaper, publishers kept large stocks of paper. Now with increasing shift in logistics to “just in time” manufacturing, publishers tend to keep increasingly small stocks of paper, meaning that supplies have to be specially ordered for each print run. This means increased time between when the book is sent off to print and when it hits shelves. As a result of this, Icelandic book publishers are keen to keep the printing process as close to Iceland as possible to ensure on-time delivery.
Despite the bleak holiday forecast, Heiðar stated that “we are going to do everything in our power to hold back price increases on books before Christmas. The Christmas book is by far the most popular Christmas gift for Icelanders, and we plan to do everything we can to ensure that it remains so.”