Comics and manga are victims of a shortage of paper and cardboard that has lasted for several months. If some titles are out, or out of date, all of the bestsellers will be available in time for Christmas.
The book industry is currently going through an unprecedented crisis in its history. Since the start of the pandemic, publishers and printers have faced a tight global paper market, marked by a phenomenon of shortage and higher prices. A situation which was accentuated in the summer and the consequences of which have been felt in every sector since.
“In fifteen years of career, I have never been so prevented from working”, summarizes Marine Barreyre, responsible for the production of Ki-oon, publisher of popular manga My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen. “I’m looking for solutions. My printers don’t have the time. We have to find new ones, but the paper makers are at their peak and they are turning down new customers.”
However, like her colleagues, she is keen to balance alarmist speeches. The books will be readily available at Christmas thanks to the publishers who for the most part anticipated the shortage. Hachette thus easily printed the mastodon Asterix and the Griffon, whose circulation reached the stratospheric score of five million copies – including two in France. Dupuis was also able to print the new Largo Winch (300.000 ex), Kid Paddle (110,000 of) and The Blue Tunics (100,000 copies), future bestsellers of the end of the year:
“We had taken our precautions. We began to feel that there were problems in April,” confirms Michel Chabotier, sales director of Dupuis. “As we always try to put our blobkbusters on sale at the same time in Europe and Quebec, we try to print them well in advance as we need a month of boat transport between France and Quebec.”
Only one title, which was not planned for Quebec, was delayed due to the situation: Dark, a heroic fantasy story drawn by Vincent Mallié and written by Hubert. Scheduled for the end of September, this spellbinding album with 65,000 copies will finally be released this Friday, October 22. “We did not have cardboard for the binding”, specifies Michel Chabotier, who also notes the stock shortages on three volumes of Michel Vaillant.
Exploding demand for cardboard
The situation is not just due to the shortage of paper, overworked printers and the Covid-19 pandemic. The explosion in demand for cardboard boxes by the book industry – essential for making covers and boxes – and by online retailers for making packaging and envelopes are also contributing to the problem.
Ki-oon thus had to delay by one month the release of its boxes bringing together the first three volumes of Jujutsu Kaisen (out of 40,000) and My Hero Academia (30,000 copies). “The printers received the paper too late and there were delays in the delivery of the cardboard”, specifies Marine Barreyre. A box bringing together Call of Cthulhu and The one who haunted the darkness, two adaptations of Lovecraft by manga artist Gou Tanabe, also goes from November 4 to December 2.
The box set which will accommodate the first twelve volumes of One Piece does not, however, suffer from the current crisis and remains scheduled for November 17 (an empty box, without the volumes, should be released in January 2022). Glénat also announced the return to bookstores of the boxes Akira and Gunnm for November 24.
Victim of its success since the launch of its animated adaptation and the manga boom, Tokyo Revengers has been completely out of stock since the start of the school year and will not be available in bookstores until November 15, its publisher Glénat said, which will release the fifteenth volume of this series on young charismatic yakuza by then on November 3.
The publisher, the first manga player in France, also deplores a postponement of one week, from November 3 to 10, for a dozen titles such as Dragon Ball Super T15, Shangri-La Frontier T2, Parasite Reversi T3, Ashidaka T3, Ariadne T11 and One Piece Party T7. Ki-oon, for its part, suffers from stock-outs on bottom stocks.
Paper orders blocked until January
It will take several months to complete its collection, explains Marine Barreyre. About 30 reprints are planned until January. “Secure” with the printer, they will be released no matter what happens on that date, as will the publisher’s novelties (including the long-awaited horror sci-fi story Leviathan). The other titles awaiting reprint, however, will not be available until February or even March. The deadlines have now been reduced from two to four months for reprints.
Especially since Ki-oon uses a very specific paper for these works: “We use a thicker, whiter paper which comes to us from a single supplier”, indicates Marine Barreyre. “Lots of printers have offered me papers that are more yellow, a little ivory, more gray, but my boss is intractable. He doesn’t want to lower the quality of the paper.”
Publishers printing in Italy also have to face another problem, linked to the crisis: Italian printers are victims of a drop in staff due to a large number of providers whose health pass or vaccine are not approved in France. The establishments are thus idling, affecting the transport of books.
The Strata, Pénélope Bagieu’s new album, is one of the victims of this transalpine situation. Scheduled for November 3, this autobiographical story was postponed by its editor Gallimard for one week, to November 10. Time for the 80,000 copies of this eagerly awaited book – and guaranteed to be one of the gondola heads of the end of the year – to arrive in French bookstores. And to be on time under the trees.
There is only one black point on the board: the Goncourt, the reprint of which cannot be anticipated, explains to RTL Claude de Saint-Vincent, head of the Media participations group (Dargaud, Kana, Dupuis, etc.): “This is the unexpected bestseller that we cannot reprint, it takes two months for that.”