Bowker, the major source of book information, has released statistics on U.S. book publishing for 2009, compiled from its Books In Print® database.
In contrast to a slight drop of about one-half percent in "traditional" book titles, for the second consecutive year there was extraordinary growth in the number of “non-traditional” books.
These books are largely self-published, micro-press, vanity-press and reprints of public domain titles. 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,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for New Providence, N.J.-based 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.”
Investment in knowledge versus pleasure defines category winners and losers
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.
Top book production category rankings and sales in 2009 and 2008:
1. Fiction: 45,181, 53,058
2. Juveniles: 32,348, 29,825
3. Sociology/Economics: 25,992, 24,737
4. Religion: 19,310, 18,296
5. Science: 15,428, 14,100
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. 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,” said Gallagher.
A look at the top publishers by title output in 2009 shows who is providing content to the long-tail marketplace through the web.
Books LLC: 224,460
Kessinger Publishing: 190,175
General Books: 11,887
International Business Publications: 8,271