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Book Production Flat For 2009, But Does That Mean Anything Without Counting eBooks?

First Posted: 06/15/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 05:10 PM ET

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Statistics from Bowker released Wednesday reported that "traditional" book production was flat for 2009. Bowker found that there was "extraordinarily large" growth in "non-traditional" titles, however, including self-published books. Do the numbers mean anything, though, when Bowker is unable to count eBook production? Publishers Marketplace's Michael Cader points out that "absent further changes in the statistics, [these numbers] are going to keep meaning less and less about the world trade publishers operate in."

From Bowker:

NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J., April 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Bowker, 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," 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.

Success in Print-on-Demand production is concentrated

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 Mr. 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.

Download the full statistics report at http://www.bowkerinfo.com/bowker/IndustryStats2010.pdf

Methodology

Numbers are gathered as a result of Bowker's maintenance of the industry's bibliographic database Books In Print and reported through PubTrack Production Trends Analysis. Books In Print is the only bibliographic database with more than 9 million U.S. book, audiobook and video titles. It is widely regarded throughout the publishing industry as the most authoritative and comprehensive source of bibliographic data available worldwide, and has been a trusted source of information in North America for more than 50 years. Audiobooks and E-books are excluded. If changes in industry estimates occur, they will be reflected in a later published report.

About Bowker

Bowker is the world's leading provider of bibliographic information management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. The company is focused on developing various tools and products that make books easier for people to discover, evaluate, order, and experience, as well as providing services to publishers that help them better understand and meet the interests of readers worldwide. Bowker is a member of the ProQuest family of companies and is headquartered in New Providence, N.J., with additional operations in England and Australia. For more information, please visit www.bowker.com.

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Filed by Jessie Kunhardt  |