American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.

Report shows U.S. book production flat in 2009

Apr 15, 2010 12:00 AM


         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

Bowker (New Providence, NJ), the global leader in bibliographic information, today released statistics on U.S. book publishing for 2009, compiled from its Books In Print database. Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that traditional U.S. title output in 2009 was virtually unchanged. Output of new titles and editions dropped less than half a percent, from 289,729 in 2008 to a projected 288,355 in 2009.

In contrast, there was another extraordinary year of growth in the number of "non-traditional" books in 2009. These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and "micro-niche" publications. Bowker projects that 764,448 titles were produced that fall outside Bowker's traditional publishing and classification definitions. This number is a 181% increase over 2008 -- which doubled 2007's output – driving total book production over 1,000,000 units for the first time.

"The data surrounding traditional publishing suggests that the weak economy is still having an adverse effect in what and how much consumers are willing to purchase," says Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker. "However, looking at the overall picture, we're seeing that the face of publishing itself is changing. Non-traditional publishing, especially related to print-on-demand, continues to offer new avenues and opportunities to grow the publishing industry. Given the exponential growth over the past three years, it's showing no signs of abating," he adds.

Changes in major publishing categories indicate that publishers expected the sluggish economy to continue its impact on consumer spending. Categories that grew tended to be in areas that could contribute to workplace knowledge and budgeting. For example, output increased in technology (+11%), science (+9%) and personal finance (+9). The big category losers were in areas impacted by changes in discretionary spending. Cookery and language titles each declined 16% and Travel continued its year over year decline, down 5% in 2009 (it took a 10% loss in 2008). Fiction also saw a second year of decline -- down 15%, significantly greater than its 1% loss in 2008. Fiction's overall impact on U.S. book production can be seen by looking at the top five categories. Despite expansion in four of the five leading categories, Fiction's 2009 decline prevented overall growth in production.

In 2008, the production of print-on-demand books surpassed traditional book publishing for the first time and since then its growth has been staggering, according to Bowker. Now more than twice the output of traditional titles, the market is dominated by a handful of publishers. In fact, the top 10 publishers overall accounted for an astounding 74% of total titles produced in 2009. "Today, these companies are opening up new publishing venues by producing titles for very niche markets and also bringing public domain titles back to life. The net effect creates a long-tail that has no end," says Gallagher.