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How are books doing?

Eric Hellman has some interesting stats in his recent post at TeleRead:

Peak book value, by Eric Hellman

“The AAP [American Association of Publishers] reported US book sales up 2.2% from 2009 to 2010.”

“According to Bowker, which publishes Books in Print, 316,480 books were published by traditional publishers in the US last year, a 4.6% increase over the prior year. So if you do the math, the average published book grossed 2.4% less in 2010 than in 2009.”

“Bowker also reports the number of books published non-traditionally. Non-traditional means publishers of print-on-demand books, public domain reprints, author-financed books: LuLu, xlibris, Amazon’s createSpace, AuthorHouse, BiblioBazaar, and Kessinger Books. This category increased 169% from 1,033,065 in 2009 to an amazing 2,776,260 books in 2010.”

“Even if 90% these titles are spam, the remaining 10% equal the number of traditionally published books. If you include these, the average sales revenue per published book has dropped by half over the past 3 years.”

I don’t know but it’s a good question. Combining book sales numbers with increasing library circulation, there is clearly little evidence that the book is dead. I hope that this means that reading is up, way up. However, we might have passed peak book price with massive pressure on book pricing. We’ve certainly seen similar pressure on revenue in other areas like music and movies. Perhaps that forms part (along with virtual sales) of what underlies the demise of some major independent bookstores, Borders and the difficulties B&N has had in refinancing or selling itself.

Then again, lower prices are good for libraries and consumers. It should encourage even more reading so that’s good too. It will pose a challenge for publishers, authors, vendors and retailers. Again, we see this digital stuff challenging everything as it moves through the old world economic system.


Posted on: August 27, 2011, 8:05 am Category: Uncategorized

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