The paper crisis is putting a strain on publishing. But how are Italian RPG publishers doing? We find out in an interview with MS Edizioni, Acheron Books and Narrattiva!

In recent months, the price of paper has increased a little everywhere. In October he talked about it in depth The Post in this article, which takes up again one from The library newspaper. For a more international study, we also recommend this article di Vox.
But how has the paper crisis affected Italian role-playing game publishers? How are they experiencing this price increase? What measures are they taking to address the crisis?

We contacted the major Italian GDR publishers to ask them some questions. In this article you will find the experiences of the three publishing houses that answered us: MS Editions (Unglorious, Dread, Four Against Darkness, Fantasy World, Knights of the Round: Academy), Acheron Books (Inferno - Dante's Guide to Hell, Brancalonia, Eternal War, Fascists from Yuggoth) is Narrative (Lovecraftesque, Undying, dialect, World of the Apocalypse).
Let's see what they replied, after a little context on the paper crisis.

Unexpected publishing successes could lead to problems with the paper crisis
Unexpected publishing successes could lead to problems with the paper crisis

What is the paper crisis and how did it arise?

What are the factors that have led to the increase in the price of paper?

The increase in the price of paper would be due to three main factors: a) the increased use of packs in paper; b) increase in packaging for goods that were in little demand during the pandemic; c) previous crisis of the companies that produced paper for books, which have switched to producing more demanded paper, such as packaging paper.

In addition, the cost of the raw material to produce paper, namely paper, has also increased at present cellulose. This would be due, according to the Sheridan printing company, to the fact that China has closed 279 paper and pulp manufacturing plants, simultaneously with the increased demand for paper packaging to replace plastic ones. The closure of paper factories in China, according to the Business Research Company, would also have caused a shortage of raw materials for inks, which in turn are increasing in price.

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Added to this is the increased cost of natural gas, and therefore it has become more expensive both to import paper and to produce it by industrial means. In fact, at the moment it is the logistics, both the production of raw materials are struggling to keep up with the recovery of trade and, therefore, the demand for products.
In this sense, the price increases concern not only publishing, but precisely all sectors involving paper, packaging, handkerchiefs and toilet paper included. The library newspaper writes:

The paper crisis is at this crossroads: cellulose costs more because it consumes more and because supplies are delayed, it costs more electricity and gas, which paper mills use in large quantities.

How much has the price of the card gone up?

Therefore, the cost of the card has now increased significantly. Indeed, some types of paper have ended up being cost more than double than usual.
Lorenzo Pieresca of Marsilio Editori, always reported by The library newspaper, says the cost of uncoated paper for the interior of books has increased by 20%, while that of the cover paper of 40%.

The situation for 2022 does not look rosy and second The Post, at the beginning of the new year there will be no price drops. According to Chris Tang, a professor of economics specializing in managing global supply chains at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), logistics congestion will ease in 2022, after the Chinese New Year. Second Vox, book prices may rise in the future.
What is certain, however, is that we don't have to worry about not finding books in the bookstore. Instead, we must beware of unexpected successes, as having to print many more copies without warning could put publishers in crisis.

The logo of Acheron Books, an Italian publisher of books, librigames and role-playing games
The logo of Acheron Books, an Italian publisher of books, librigames and role-playing games

Interview with Italian role-playing game publishers

Let's now see how Italian role-playing game publishers are facing the paper crisis.

1) Is the current card price increase a completely new situation, or have you seen similar situations in the past?

MS Editions

As a publishing house MS Edizioni is relatively young, so it hasn't had any previous episodes of such marked price increases on the material as well. We were certainly already aware that the situation would get worse in the future. Let's say we were ready to soften the blow.

Acheron Books

We are a relatively new publisher on the market so we have no historical memory. In our experience, this is therefore the first crisis in the sector we are witnessing.

Narrative

I have been in the publishing world for so long that I can remember pre-Euro times when paper was paid for in Trademarks: even significant fluctuations in the price month by month, linked to the Lira / Marco exchange, were the habit. I would say that from a certain point of view the Euro has introduced a stability in the price of paper that before we could only see it in a dream.

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The logo of MS Edizioni, an Italian publisher of role-playing games, board games and book games
The logo of MS Edizioni, an Italian publisher of role-playing games, board games and book games

2) According to the publisher of SEM, Riccardo Cavallero, "The problem mainly concerns small publishers who have less negotiating power" and who could therefore be forced to reduce production, thus launching fewer books. How do you see the situation of your publishing house in this context? Do you plan to launch fewer RPGs as long as this crisis persists?

MS Editions

MS Edizioni is growing very rapidly but still very far from the big publishing houses in our sector. Certainly our book catalog will continue to evolve at a slower pace than we set out to do, but it will continue, of course.
However, the increase in the cover price will be inevitable for everyone to stop the increase in the cost of raw materials. We will try our best to keep everything unchanged.

Acheron Books

For now we will not decrease the production of either role-playing games or books, but recently our printers announced that the printing times have been extended due to the paper crisis and that it takes two and a half months to receive the runs. you order. Should this gap grow, we will consider what to do.

Narrative

It is not that Narrattiva produces millions of titles a month, so the impact strictly of the price of the paper, rather than limiting the production, will eventually be felt on the cover prices.
The hardest thing to deal with right now is uncertainty, which is burning up tons of energy (like we have surplus, sigh). Any manufacturer (printers, paper manufacturers, etc.) makes estimates with a validity that can be measured in billionths of a second. And this is a Problem (the capital "p" is desired) because several months pass between when you decide how to make a book (based on estimates) and when the file will be available for printing. It's like moving on quicksand.
Reliable delivery dates have become a thing of the past. And, working with foreign countries, there is also the problem of transport, which has become dramatic both in terms of costs and reliability.

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The logo of Narrattiva, the Italian publisher of role-playing games
The logo of Narrattiva, the Italian publisher of role-playing games

3) During the pandemic, role play in many things has shifted to digital media. Are you thinking of further enhancing digital tools (pdf, online wiki, etc.) for the use of RPGs, in the context of this crisis? If so, which ones? If not, why?

MS Editions

Role play has grown dramatically during the pandemic. Not only that, all that was digital support has done nothing but increase the number of users in this sector who have now become new customers and players for the "physical" part, that is, a real game manual.
So, digital media and platforms that allow you to play online are welcome.
MS Edizioni, on its side, will launch its own direct shop from which it will be possible to purchase the pdf or buy the physical copy of an RPG with the pdf to download.

Acheron Books

Acheron has always been very digital, we are born as publishers of ebooks only on the online store, so we know the advantages well. So we are working on enhancing digital channels both for sales and distribution, and for the use of games. So for us digital is a path already foreseen regardless of the current crisis.

Narrative

We are planning to start working on the pdfs and simultaneously start producing skins for Roll20, but we are still paying (organizationally) for the whole period of the covid and the dramatic chaos of this latest Lucca.

The poster of Lucca Comics & Games 2021
The poster of Lucca Comics & Games 2021

4) Lucca Comics & Games has always been a very favorable moment for the printing and sale of new role-playing games. But was it like this again this year? Or did the paper crisis have an impact on the copies you were able to print for Lucca?

MS Editions

The crazy timing had a violent impact on the fair. In addition to seeing few users and few publishers, the delays made it impossible to bring new games.
For example, MS Edizioni was supposed to release the new RPG Legacy: Life in the Ruins during Lucca C & G… we were told that it would arrive in mid-December.

Acheron Books

At the moment it has not impacted, also because the problem has only begun to be felt on the Italian market now. So Lucca was "saved". If the situation worsens, the real effects will be felt at Play in 2022.

Narrative

Surely the "blow" was felt. We were forced last minute to raise the cover price of Nechronica (one of the novelties). And the volume arrived at the stand a day late.
In general, however, we hope to be able to wade through this period without further jolts. It should be noted that the prices of the Narrattiva manuals have been at a standstill for 10 years, and sooner or later some prices will rise, but more for "physiological" reasons than for the contingent situation.

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Play 2022 will be an unknown factor due to the paper crisis. Photos from Play 2021, Need Games booth
Play 2022 will be an unknown factor due to the paper crisis. Photos from Play 2021, Need Games booth

5) In general, how are you experiencing this paper crisis? What do you think will happen in the future?

MS Editions

The paper crisis is making itself felt with the increase in price and delivery times, but honestly at the moment they are still bearable in terms of numbers and delays. If I had to make a forecast for next year I would say that we will see an increase in the price of the game manual which will settle when the new price of the paper material starts to stabilize.
Whatever happens, the feeling is that there will be fewer RPGs because they are spread over a much longer release period. To avoid problems of delays, we are already planning Play 2022!

Acheron Books

We are calm because we have a modular and flexible approach, especially when faced with problems. For example, during the pandemic, with shops, bookstores and distributors closed, we have grown enormously thanks to online streams (Amazon, Kickstarter, e-stores) and digital products. We are already making the necessary corrections to try to avoid damage.
Then it is clear that if it were to get to a very long block of the card, the negative effects for everyone would be inevitable. But before I think of the other players in the supply chain, those before (the printers) and those after (shops, fairs), which have much less flexibility ...

Narrative

Perhaps more trained at the time when it was paid for in Marchi, I am living it with a certain philosophy. I predict that after a roller coaster period (which unfortunately could be several months), the market will find its equilibrium.

The paper crisis could give a further boost to digital, even for gaming. Digital dashboard for the role-playing game Little Katy's Tea Party
The paper crisis could give a further boost to digital, even for gaming. Digital role play board Little Katy's Tea Party

Two conclusive words

First of all, we thank MS Edizioni, Acheron Books and Narrattiva for responding to this interview and for telling us how they are experiencing the current paper crisis.
It is clear that there are difficulties and that, if the situation remains the same even at the beginning of 2022, we could hear some consequences at next year's Play. For sure, we will try to monitor the situation and to be affected by the publishing houses again next year, so as to see the changes in the coming months.
We therefore hope that this crisis will pass quickly and that the Italian role-playing game publishers will be able to continue their work in peace.

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