Arizona Bookstores May Need 'Kindness And Patience' This Holiday Season

By Christina Estes
Published: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 1:39pm
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 6:01pm

smiling man holding pen and book
Christina Estes/KJZZ
William Kent Krueger signs copies of his new book at The Poisoned Pen on Aug. 23, 2021.

Bookstores across Arizona are bracing for an uncertain fall and holiday season as the publishing industry gets pummeled by the pandemic and labor shortages.

The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale saw record sales in 2020, and owner Barbara Peters said they’ve already set a new record this year.

“More people are reading, more people are ordering, we have a much larger international customer base than we used to because, thanks to Zoom, people watch our events from all over the world,” she said.

But business could change drastically. Here’s part of a recent email Peters received from a major wholesaler:

“In fall, the publishing business can expect disruption in shipping, increases in costs throughout the supply chain, shortages in consumables used for packing and shipping and shortages in manufacturing supplies for books and printed matter.”

The industry’s also dealing with labor shortages at manufacturing facilities and warehouses. Plus, it relies on truck drivers and shipping carriers. Peters said carriers expect the highest volume during the second week of December.

“And that, of course, you know is the big holiday push week,” she said. “So people who are used to being able to order online and expecting miraculously that things are going to appear on their door, it won’t just be books, it’s probably going to be everything.”

"... it won’t just be books, it’s probably going to be everything."
— Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen

The United States Postal Service, UPS and FedEX are expected to add delivery surcharges starting Nov. 30. About 90% of the Pen’s sales are conducted online.

“Customers can get easily upset, you know. They have an expectation that when a book publishes they should get their copy right away and we can’t always supply it at this moment,” Peters said. “There’s not really much that we can do in case of delay other than just ask for their kindness and patience.”

author at table and woman standing
Christina Estes/KJZZ
Arizona author Isabella Maldonado (seated) greets readers at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Nov. 23, 2020.

The Pen has held more than 500 online events during the pandemic and every book that’s discussed or recommended is first read by Peters or a staff member.

For several months, she said, they were unable to get advance copies to read and she asked many authors to email their manuscripts so they could be printed and read before publication day when books go on sale.

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two people in chairs talking while being recorded
Christina Estes/KJZZ
The Poisoned Pen Owner Barbara Peters interviews author William Kent Krueger for a live virtual event on August 23, 2021.
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