Letter No. 12 - Local Values

I recently came across this article that lamented the fact that new books will be hard to come by for the remainder of 2021. Diving deeper, I learned that this delay is because most books are printed in China and have to first travel across the ocean on enormous shipping containers before reaching North America.

Shipping Container Ocean China

Due to Covid, supply-chain bottlenecks have emerged that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Simply put, right now there aren’t enough container shipping containers, dockworkers, and truck drivers to move these books halfway across the world efficiently or at a low cost. 

Reading this, I couldn’t help but appreciate that Century Press’ books are printed in Cornwall, only an hour away from my home. Plus, our bookbindery is located a mere 45 minute drive away in Smiths Falls. With a supply chain so local to our headquarters in Ottawa, the last thing on my mind is rising shipping container rates or import/export issues. 

Eastern Ontario Century Press Supply Chain Local

When production of The Great Gatsby was moving along more slowly than I anticipated, a colleague suggested that I tell my customers that it was due to Covid-related delays; after all, who wasn’t encountering those? Truthfully, I couldn’t do it, because it was frankly untrue! Century Press wasn’t being slowed down by our globalized supply chain, we just wanted to ensure that we had sufficient time to deliver a high-quality product to our early supporters!

Letterpress printing is not something that can be photographed on an iPhone overseas and approved by email. It needs to have fingers run across it and be viewed at varying angles with different kinds of light. Similarly, how can a leather binding be assessed without feeling it in your hands as you flip the pages? 

Making a Century Press edition is not something that can be done remotely.

And on the subject of remote work, for all those out there with Zoom-fatigue, I am with you 100%. In fact, I think I may realistically have a full-fledged Zoom-phobia. One huge benefit of having our suppliers so close is that I can actually talk to them in real life! Besides reducing my ‘screen-time,’ this makes the process of innovating and troubleshooting our books much more effective. 

Zoom Fatigue Blurry Eyed

All in all, at Century Press we think that leveraging a local supply chain makes for better books. Plus, supporting the local book publishing economy helps ensure that these jobs—and more importantly, these scarce, valuable skillsets—don't fundamentally disappear from the community.


  • Joan Ryan

    I love everything you are doing! I find it very sad that many precious skills are being lost because the new ways are cheaper and easier to mass market. I love that you use things that otherwise may have been wasted. I love that you find ‘in person” worth the effort when selecting materials and method. If I were ever to undertake making a quality product I would take the same approach. If something is worth doing it should be done well. Bravo to you all. My budget is limited and Gatsby is one of my favs so I did not purchase however I eagerly await your next title in hopes of owning one of your beautiful and finely crafted books.

  • Tim Moore

    Couldn’t agree more. Most books are made using “perfect binding” which is everything not “perfect”. The spine of the book is simply folded sheets held in place where the folds are ripped off and then simply glued to the cover. I feel insulted by the name and ripped-off by the publisher.

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