Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Future Of Book Publishing

I've always wondered what will book publishing be like in the future given the rise of so many new technologies like the ebook and the internet, will we stop reading books? Just as the encyclopedia is slowly growing out of style and obsolete by the minute, will books in general lose its place?

Here are the statistics for book publishing via Thad McIlroy's future of publishing

  1. Nielsen BookScan, quoted in the June 2007 Harper's magazine (available to subscribers only), reported that nearly 1.5 million different titles were sold in the United States in 2006, although 78% of those titles sold fewer than 99 copies, while only 483 titles sold more than 100,000 copies.
  2. A ground-breaking 2005 report by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) revealed that there are 62,815 active publishers in the United States, and that 46,860 of these publishers had revenues below $50,000 per year. (Most observers would have placed the number well below 5,000; in 2002 the U.S. Census reported 3,570 book publishers.) In 2006, using a slightly different methodology, the BISG reported that there were in fact 88,528 "active" publishers in the U.S. Nearly 68,000 had sales under $50,000 per year.
  3. Book publishing remains arguably amongst the least digitized of publishing industries, and yet this lack of automation appears not to have hampered the business. What might improved use of digital production bring to the bottom line? The industry has only begun to explore the many opportunities that the Web is offering, in terms of promotion, sales and distribution. There remains a significant upside here.
  4. With all of the demographic changes in print readership, book publishing industry has weathered the challenge, in part through the publication of more specialized titles in shorter print runs, in part through increased publications of "non-books" (novelty titles) and in part through improved distribution method, including on the Internet.
  5. In the separate section on Education I cover the textbook industry. While it currently remains profitable, growth has stalled, and the move to new electronic media poses a very serious threat to this $20 billion sector of the book publishing industry.
  6. Despite some modestly positive trends, the underlying basis for a successful future for the book publishing industry is rapidly being eroded. As reported below, reading rates are dropping drastically, and average annual household spending on books dropped 14% between 1985 and 2005 when adjusted for inflation.
  7. On the other hand, e-books do appear to be rapidly (and finally) gaining a foothold in the industry, both substituting for and augmenting print sales.
My overall rating for the future of book publishing is a continuing modest decline in total sales volume, but certainly not an impending catastrophe.

According to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), "the total number of films released in the U.S. in 2007 remained on par with 2006 with 603 films released." (They have subsequently revised this figure to 590 in 2007, vs. 599 in 2006). According to Bowker, the book publishing industry "bible," "(in 2004) publishers in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand released 375,000 new titles and editions." While I can't find updated worldwide figures, a May 2008 press release from Bowker reports that the company "is projecting that U.S. title output in 2007 increased slightly to 276,649 new titles and editions, up from the 274,416 that were published in 2006."

1 comment:

Thad McIlroy said...

Just wanted to let your readers know that the site can be accessed at:

Thanks for quoting from the site: that's what it's there for!