How It Works: Books on Backorder

Hello readers,

We’ve all received that dreaded email: the book we want most is on backorder and won’t be available for some unspecified amount of time. There’s that sinking disappointed feeling and the heavy sighing of having to find something else to read while you wait. We know it well.

Unfortunately, it’s quite a common feeling in pandemic times.

So we wanted to give you some insight into what backordered books look like on our end. It’s one thing to beg your patience over and over again, but it’s another to give you a glimpse into why we must beg your patience. So here goes.

Publishers order x-number of books from the printers, based on a hundred different factors: author popularity, how many copies of their last book were sold, how big the marketing push is, the number of pre-orders for the book, bookseller feedback and industry buzz, etc. They’ll order more if the book is garnering early support and less if there are early negative reviews or low pre-orders. Once the book is out, they refill the orders with similar stats: sales and demand drive how many books get printed.

During the pandemic, there’s the added factor of printers working at half-capacity, publishers working from home, bookstores working with closed doors. Though you’ve all done an amazing job keeping us and other bookstores in business, sales are still down, and that means less demand for books to be printed–which is not a bad thing, since the printers, just like us, are working overtime to get orders filled.

Then something happens–a world-wide protest sparks the demand for books on how not to be racist–and the printers are suddenly drowning in orders for books they didn’t know they’d need extra copies of. They put a rush on the printing, but they’re still working at half-staff because of the pandemic, and they still have to print all those other titles that other people want, and bam… a book is on backorder.

It’s the worst, but it’s unavoidable when something like this sweeps the world suddenly.

So, all of this is to say, if you’ve ordered:  How to be an Antiracist, White Fragility, The New Jim Crow, So You Want to Talk About Race, White Rage, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, either the adult or the young people’s version of Stamped, or Raising White Kids from us in the last few days, this is why they haven’t gotten to you yet. Luckily, our distributor can give us some estimated dates for when the books will be back in stock, and it looks like most of the above titles will be back in the next two weeks or so. (Of course, estimates are estimates, and everything can change in an instant, but that’s at least a ballpark figure.)

Here’s what that means for us, though: Our website is right about as often as it is wrong. It will often say that we have 2 copies of a book on the shelf, but sometimes, those two copies are on hold for other customers or one is damaged and hasn’t been transferred out of inventory yet, or has been sold earlier that day. Our website updates daily, at 2am when the system resets, so often it looks like we have one copy, but it sold during the day and the system won’t have updated yet. Since our website is connected to our distributor’s inventory and to the American Bookseller Association’s servers where it’s hosted, we don’t have control of the stock updates or titles listed there. Which can lead to some confusion. We recommend you always call or email to check if we have a book in stock as opposed to trusting the numbers on the website. It’s a little clumsy, but that’s the hazard of being a small business relying on other technology.

If you’re itching for titles you can’t get a hold of physically, we recommend you check out Libro.fm’s Anti-Racism playlist: a whole page of quality audiobooks with no wait time. If you order them through our storefront, we’ll get a percentage of the sales! Same goes for ebooks on Hummingbird! And if you’re in no rush, you can still order from us, and we’ll get the books to you as soon as they’re back in stock.

We know how hard it is to wait for books, and we are grateful for your patience as pandemic and protests put a strain on the printing presses of the book industry. We hope this explains at least a little bit of what’s happening and why there are suddenly backorders on everything you’re looking for.

Thank you for your patience.

Happy reading!

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