If we are really living through a long-term (if perhaps slower than feared) decline in print as against e-books, we are also going to see effects in the supply chain for books. Here’s Bob Sacks’ comment on a Dead Tree Edition piece about proposed price increases in the struggling graphic paper market.

I have been predicting the survival of print, and my steady position for the past decade has been that printing will be/must be a luxury item and that means paper will be, too. For everyone’s survival both print and paper need to cost more. That is the brutal honesty of the situation. Print is no longer the commodity that it once was, and as the numbers continue to decrease, the scarcity of the product is on the increase. 
     There was a time when newsstands were plentiful and all participants in the process – retailer, publisher, printer and paper maker – were rolling in success. It was almost like printing money. Those days are gone, and each component of the supply chain is striving to understand what happened and how they could have gone from riches to rags in a decade.”

This seems dead-on to me. I’ve been moaning on for some time about the long-term effects of the rise of digital on the book manufacturing industry, and obviously paper is a big part of that picture. It’s not so much that we will decide to stop printing books, it’s more that by printing fewer and fewer as e-books take a larger share of the market, the sources of cheap printing will disappear — so we’ll no longer be able to afford to print the short runs we have become used to. “Printing” will remain, but either as POD or de-luxe editions, with similar unit cost implications in both cases. While printed books will still be available, their prices will be sharply higher than they are today. It’s tough to see a large sustainable business built on this model.

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