Bohdan publishing house

Three strategies of Ukrainian publishers during blackouts


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Recently, Chytomo conducted a survey on how the full-scale war has affected the work of Ukrainian publishers, although at that moment Ukraine hasn’t yet faced blackouts of the scale it’s facing now. Winter is not just close, it has already come, and Russia has not stopped terrorizing Ukrainian cities and villages by bombing thermal, nuclear and hydroelectric power stations. However, Russia doesn’t understand one thing — power shortages will not force Ukraine to capitulate, and Ukrainians will not stop improving their lives despite any circumstances forced upon them by the enemy. We are all adjusting to the new dark days, and the book publishing industry is no exception. Here are the strategies that 13 Ukrainian publishing houses are using to continue their work.

Option 1

ArtHuss representatives say that the lack of electricity due to Russian shelling causes inconveniences, but the team is adapting to the new realities and trying to be efficient no matter what.


“Our sales team is incredible! One of the managers is currently abroad, so she processes orders remotely. If everything is paid and there is no need to clarify any additional information, those orders can be shipped immediately. Another manager, Maria, is in Kyiv. Maria adapts to new conditions, sometimes working from home, sometimes from the office, or even from cafes with generators. This way, she always has access to the internet, our system and she is able to advise the readers. We are also considering purchasing a generator in order to become more independent regardless of the circumstances,” they said.


To make things easier, ArtHuss advises readers to pay for orders through the website right away, and not to forget to specify their email. Also, the publishing house immediately posted warnings  on its social media that shipments could be delayed. “We try not to leave anyone without information and in limbo,” the ArtHuss says.


Ranok publishing house is also adapting to the new conditions. They said that they had purchased headlights for the warehouse employees and also installed a generator, so orders are being processed as usual.


“We work in any conditions: in the Points of Invincibility, in a car, moving around the city in search of mobile connection and the internet, or just in places where there is light or generators. We work even at night when there is light. From now on, time management has become our strength, because in those two to four  hours, we manage to do the impossible. Our editors proofread manuscripts and new books by candlelight, but this will not break our employees’ morale. The work is going on as usual,” the publishing house said.


Their strategy is to calculate and prepare for the worst scenarios. In particular, Ranok organized four reserve warehouses in Kyiv, Lutsk, Lviv and Kolomyia.


In addition, this is the only publishing house in Ukraine which produces educational and digital content, using the ERP system of the American company Oracle (Oracle E-Business Suite Applications), and BI solutions for data processing and analysis. “This is why we can work even during blackouts. We use Google Workspace for communication, which enables employees to organize meetings, use secure corporate mail and store information in the cloud safely,” the publishing house notes.


The Old Lion publishing house relies on generators installed in the office and in the main warehouse for uninterrupted work. However, problems arise with bookstores in the cities where the power is gone most of the time.


“The most difficult situation we have is with a bookstore-cafe in Odesa. We are currently looking for ways to provide them with power, but in the meantime, we have a flexible schedule depending on the conditions. Often sellers work without power, using flashlights and candles. We are glad that even in such conditions, readers still come to us for their favorite books or just to warm up,” says Oksana Ziobro, head of the marketing and public relations department.


Vivat also combines different solutions: they try to adjust to shutdown schedules, managing to do everything when there is electricity available, and utilizing generators when necessary. 


“Website administrators work when there is power. Sometimes it is late at night. I never stop thanking them for their dedication and inspiration. Believe me, maintaining round-the-clock high-quality communication with clients while lacking light and mobile coverage is a real challenge,” says Vivat Director Yulia Orlova.


According to her, the Vivat office in Kharkiv has sort of turned into a Point of Invincibility, with a generator and a Starlink connection to provide all employees with light, heat, and internet.


Publishing house’s bookstores are also working. “We only close during air raid alerts. In case of power blackouts, we have battery banks and emergency lighting. We really want to create a charging spot for our customers in Kyiv in the near future, so that each of our guests can recharge their gadgets in our store,” Orlova adds.

Option 2

Folio is another Kharkiv publishing house. They have an office, a printing house and several warehouses located in the city. Their solution was to relocate. “We moved what we could, the workers went to different parts of Ukraine, so most of them work remotely. Currently, we cooperate with 8 different printing houses in the country, and the office in Kharkiv was closed,” the publishing house said.


They also had to shift their working hours: before they worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but since February, the work continues 24/7 when there is light and mobile connection.

The office of Nebo BookLab Publishing faces a unique challenge: it is located on the 18th floor. When the lights go out, so does the elevator. The publishing house still works, but the employees have to walk up.


“We bought lamps for everyone’s desk (since we can’t use generators, because we’re located on the last floor). When the power goes out, everyone works on tasks they can do without the internet. The editor-in-chief Anna works on proofreading texts while the laptop is charged, the chief designer Tonya prepares books for printing, SMM manager Maria shoots content and works on texts, and sales manager Darya packs books, etc. Sometimes we have to carry down the books on foot, in order to send them to our readers on time,” the publishing house says.

The work stops only when the air-raid alert sounds and employees go down from the 18th floor to the parking lot: “Recently, that’s where we signed leaflets for the pre-sale of our book “Steel and Solar Storm”, so that we wouldn’t waste time and our readers get their copies on time.”


Vydavnytstvo publishing house faces difficulties with planning: all preparatory stages of work on the book have become less predictable, and the deadlines for preparation have increased by four to five times.


It might seem that the situation of uncertainty and high flexibility in changing obstacles is common for such small publishers, but it is not. Nor is it very optimistic: longer preparation times and a decrease in orders greatly increase the operating cycle and cause a reduction in publishing plans.


“Books that we expected to get done fast risk falling out of the schedule, because work that requires long-term use of electricity becomes much less convenient to perform. When there is power, you do what is necessary for your family first, and then, if you have extra time, you also do your work requirements. In addition, there is less motivation because constant shelling significantly increases the overall stress, plus health issues and other “force majeure” may still occur. Most of all, blackouts affect the deadlines for translations, editing and layout. What used to take a week now takes two to three weeks or even more,” says Eliash Strongowski, the co-founder of the Vydavnytstvo publishing house. 


According to him, the state of logistics isn’t good either: the dispatch schedule has to be adjusted to the schedule of power shortages, but they do not always coincide. “Sometimes, an employee is preparing to go to the department for shipments, calls a taxi, and the air raid alert starts, so no one goes anywhere. It is very exhausting. Fortunately, if you manage to get there, the Nova Poshta post offices are usually eager to help and accept shipments even without light. They send them afterward whenever they can. The fact that the number of orders has significantly decreased also helps to ease the logistics situation. In fact, we can talk about the first significant decline in demand since April. Before that, we observed its constant and continuous growth,” Strongowski says.


At NORA-DRUK, the main problem is also the organization of the work process under changing circumstances. “The most difficult thing now with a minimum number of employees is to keep the rhythm of work in the chain of order-accounting-warehouse-logistics company. Editors and translators do heroic work, especially when there is no electricity or internet for days at a time and power only appears for a few hours. However, new books are being prepared for printing, and all of them will eventually reach the readers!” emphasizes Mykola Kravchenko, the co-founder of the publishing house.


Bohdan publishing house chose a similar strategy. The pace of order processing suffers, so the office adjusts their work schedule around planned blackouts. In general, everyone works from home or the office whenever possible. We will continue to do our work no matter what,” the publisher says.


The Bukrek publishing house utlizied a similar strategy to adapt to the new conditions.


“So far, we have been disconnected from power according to the schedule, so we try to fit all the urgent work into those few hours that power is on. Many colleagues work remotely to get more done. Deadlines are a bit affected by the outages, but we try to do everything on time. It has become more difficult to collaborate with authors, many have very long outages. For now, we see the only way out is to do everything as far ahead as possible,” they say.


“We distribute the internet from our phones, try to catch mobile service in the corridors. There is a lot of confusion in actions, which is not optimal from the point of view of business processes. Logistics are delayed, but eventually deliveries get through. The editors are also constantly searching for mobile service and internet in coffee shops, etc. The deadlines are being missed. But this is transient, and it all will pass. Adapting to the given conditions in the home front is one of the minor components of our victory,” says Anton Martynov, founder of Laboratory.

Option 3

“We are working as usual, sending ordered books, including new editions of Mesopotamia and Voroshilohrad by Serhiy Zhadan, to readers every day. No one has canceled our work,” says Yevhenia Lopata, editor of Meridian Czernowitz publishing house.


Anetta Antonenko, the founder of the eponymous publishing house, also tries not to worry. “I have an A-B-C plan. Personally, I have a power reserve for 18-20 continuous hours of laptop operation and the internet from a mobile hotspot. That’s also enough for 10 mobile phone charges, which is up to 20 days of service. Sometimes power was off for 40 hours and that was enough,” says the publisher.


According to her, the publishing house has been able to work in conditions of limited resources since the 90s, which has now become very helpful.


“Everything is as usual — no deadline should be missed. That’s how we live. We bought additional batteries and updated those devices that were weak. But these are minimal changes. In addition, we closed the publishing year at the beginning of November. The books are published and we even hold presentations (for example, on Nov. 26 there was one in Podil at the Zakapelok bookstore). So we are working with optimism, and when there will be more “problems” — we will solve them as well,” Antonenko concludes.


Read also: 9 months of invasion: how Ukrainian publishers work in times of war


Translated by Bohdana Voitenko
Edited by Jared Goyette