For countries like Pakistan, that have for so long eschewed any meaningful shift to digital publishing, this is perhaps one of many days of reckoning to come.
It’s June and Pakistan’s printing presses should be rolling off the latest school and college text books in time for the new academic year which starts in August. But this year it looks like there will be no new books, hitting not just the printers but the publishers and authors, distributors, retailers and of course the students.
The Great Pakistan Paper Shortage is something that we are likely to see repeated around the globe as the global economic crisis deepens.
Big printing presses are at a standstill, and what little paper there is in the country is too low quality to be used for text books. Or at least, full-price retail text books. Pirates selling poorly printed copies at rock-bottom prices will be laughing all the way to the bank.
But with bitter irony even the pirates will be out of pocket, as even the low-quality locally-produced paper price has risen 200%. Imported paper is a luxury few can even dream of, burdened by high import duties on top of the global rise in paper prices that impacts everywhere.
At present, the price of local paper had increased by over 200 per cent and its quality was also inferior to the foreign-manufacture paper, they said, reports The News International newspaper.
They said that the pricing formula was yet to be decided between the government and private publishers and no steps had been taken to provide paper at a fixed price to the publishers.
Aziz Khalid, Chairman of the Publishers and Booksellers Association of Pakistan said the crisis is,
Pushing the printing and packaging industries towards collapse.
The consequences for the publishing and publishing-retail industries do not bear thinking about.
In many developed countries textbooks have shifted in large part to digital, and on top of better margins the publishers are reaping the extra benefit of not having to worry about the price or availability of paper as the global paper supply chain unravels.
But for countries like Pakistan, that have for so long eschewed any meaningful shift to digital publishing, this is perhaps one of many days of reckoning to come.
And with 100 million of its 225 million population online it’s also a huge missed opportunity.