Tourism, entertainment and restaurants are the industries that most readily come to mind when discussing the impact of COVID-19 regulations on the Dutch economy and society as a whole.

The latest, and most unexpected victim, however, is the Dutch book sector.

Increased internet activity

In Europe, paper pulp is more likely to be used for packages or boxes than it is to become a book. With an unprecedented increase in online shopping and food deliveries in response to COVID-19 regulations, there is an increased demand for cardboard boxes.

Too many takeaway pizzas can (humorously) be blamed for the paper shortage in the Netherlands. This is understandable, as what better way to cope with a pandemic than with cheesy carbs and take out treats?

The publishing industry responds

Robert Jan de Rooi who is owner and director of Wilco — one of the largest printing companies in the Netherlands — says that many factories across Europe previously dedicated to printing books have switched industries to meet the demand for cardboard boxes.

Companies like Thuisbezorgd and Deliveroo saw a significant spike in the number of takeaway orders, and online shopping outlets like Amazon and Bol boomed.

Less paper for printing

According to the NOS, a pandemic-related shortage in paper pulp means less to spare for books. It seems like people in the Netherlands, and indeed the world, turned to the internet to fill their shopping needs.

This makes sense seeing as eating out was primarily restricted and window shopping all but abolished during the worst of the COVID-19 waves.

Impact on book printing

Book printers are at the so-called back of the line regarding the paper deliveries needed to manufacture books. As a result of month-long order backlogs and delivery issues, publishers have to wait for their books to reach the shelves.

Naturally, this is an unforeseen setback of increased online shopping and subsequent deliveries. Printers are left waiting longer for deliveries, and the paper market is ultimately out of balance.

Planning around the paper shortage

As a result of paper delays and pulp shortages, publishers now have to plan their releases and re-releases around the paper shortage. More books will be temporarily sold out because reprint is on the backlog. As a result, same-day delivery is out of the question for the time being.

Increased book sales

On the positive side, the book industry is doing well with the sales that they do make. According to Market researcher GfK, a total of 41 million books were sold last year, involving a turnover of almost €600 million — 6% more than in 2019.

Books sell well in the Netherlands, and the expected turnover for books sales is nearly 5% higher in 2021.

Have you felt the impact of the Dutch paper shortage? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!