Just Can’t Get Enough

By Kathryn Comment

I can’t decide what analogy works best here: self-destructive drug addiction or deeply thoughtless arms race:

NEW YORK – Despite widespread agreement that too many books are in the marketplace, publishers apparently can’t help themselves.

A study announced Tuesday estimates that a record 195,000 new works came out in 2004, a 14 percent jump over the previous year and 72 percent higher than in 1995.

… The Bowker report follows a survey released last week from the Book Industry Study Group, which estimates that the actual number of books sold in 2004 dropped by 40 million from the previous year.

According to PW, that growth in title production has been driven mostly “by mid-sized and small publishers–and likely on-demand and vanity presses.”

TheBookStandard.com‘s analysis of the Bowker report also notes that “adult fiction, which accounted for 25,184 of the new titles in 2004, increased a hefty 43.1% from 2003, the highest jump ever recorded for the category.” Large houses, however, only contributed “modestly” to this growth, “increasing their output in the category only 3.5% from the previous year.” But, while the big houses”filled out their lists by releasing more titles in business, juvenile, law, sociology and travel,” they also cut back on literary fiction. “Nonetheless, the overall growth means that adult fiction now accounts for 14% of all titles published in the country.”


Bowker’s press release, which none of the above articles, for whatever reasons, link to, makes mention of several more “interesting statistics”:

  • 11,458 new publishers registered with the U.S. ISBN Agency in 2004, an increase of 5.3% over 2003.
  • 4,040 books were translated into English from another language, a decrease of 8.1% from 2003.
  • Novels published by the large trade houses averaged 359 pages in 2004, a growth of 24 pages since 1995, and 43 pages since 1990.