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August 18, 2011

…this report of my death was an exaggeration.
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 PM * 16 comments

Neither publishing nor bookselling appear to be quite ready for the coffin.

From The New York Times:

BookStats, a comprehensive survey conducted by two major trade groups that was released early Tuesday, revealed that in 2010 publishers generated net revenue of $27.9 billion, a 5.6 percent increase over 2008. Publishers sold 2.57 billion books in all formats in 2010, a 4.1 percent increase since 2008.

The Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group collaborated on the report and collected data from 1,963 publishers, including the six largest trade publishers. The survey encompassed five major categories of books: trade, K-12 school, higher education, professional and scholarly.

“We’re seeing a resurgence, and we’re seeing it across all markets — trade, academic, professional,” said Tina Jordan, the vice president of the Association of American Publishers. “In each category we’re seeing growth. The printed word is alive and well whether it takes a paper delivery or digital delivery.

And from The Washington Post:

The American Booksellers Association, the national trade organization for independently owned bookstores, counted a 7 percent growth last year and has gained 100 new members in the past six months. The association now counts 1,830 member stores across the country, up by 400 since 2005, according to Meg Smith, the association’s spokeswoman. The new stores have opened in at least 35 states, from New York to California, an indication that store owners across the nation see an opportunity to find a concrete niche in the e-book world.

“The takeaway is that independent bookselling is still a desirable profession and it’s sustainable,” Smith says.

Both articles are well-worth reading in full. Both publishing and bookstores deal in Story. Story, as Miss Teresa says, is a force of nature. When publishers or bookstores get away from story, they are moving from their positions of strength. Chocolates are not story. Coffee is not story. Music may be story, but most often isn’t. People who want story know where to go to find it.

While information wants to be free, entertainment wants to be well-paid.

Onward to truth, beauty, and story.

Comments on ...this report of my death was an exaggeration.:
#1 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:10 PM:

I googled for "death exageration" to see if I was missing a reference, and this was the first result.

Am I missing a reference?

#2 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:18 PM:

I believe it's a reference to the Mark Twain quote, "The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" (or something like that).

#3 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:23 PM:

Delighted to see that both publishing and independent bookstores are doing better than is commonly reported.

a chris @1: Isn't it frustrating that you often can't successfully google for a word or phrase used on Making Light? I wonder if other search engines might be less swayed by ML's heft?

#4 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:34 PM:

In this case, part of the trouble might be that 'exaggeration' has two 'g's.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:39 PM:

That is a Mark Twain quote, and it is the actual quote (rather than the oft-quoted "quote").

And the typo has been fixed.

#6 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 01:51 PM:

I shall just note that the fastest-growing category was higher-ed, and wonder how much of that is actual growth and how much is the insane price increase for academic journals.

#7 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 04:05 PM:


I think the higher-ed increase is insane price increases/edition churn for textbooks, not journals.

While prices on many academic journals have increased a lot, spending hasn't increased nearly as much, since libraries are cutting back and are also being forced into bulk deals where they get the worthwhile journals from a publisher and also get hundreds of Misc. J. Whatever.

The last paragraph of the NYT article says Scholarly publishing, the smallest category in the business, had net revenue grow by 4.7 percent since 2008.

#8 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2011, 05:55 PM:

Oops, sorry for being so vague. I recognized the Twain quote (though I admit I've never checked that it was really Twain). I was looking for a second-order reference with a deliberate misspelling. Because that kind of thing wouldn't surprise me around here.

But it was a bit ridiculous of me to ask whether I'm missing a reference, without supplying some information regarding references I have detected.

#9 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 08:02 AM:

At a talk that I went to, I remember someone saying that people with ebook readers are more likely to buy more books that people that just buy physical copies. Go ebooks!

Sigh, although I've having a lot of trouble getting things out right now, especially since we've raised our quality standards to "as good as print." Mind you, I don't regret that at all, but it does mean that our production schedules have doubled in size for all ebooks.

#10 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 08:06 AM:

Uh, just to be clear, I work for the ebooks department of a publishing company and I also value several of my local independent bookstore (and I have a physical book fixation). I'm happy that ebooks are doing well (because: job security), but I'm also happy that independent bookstores are doing well.

After I posted I realized that my previous post could be taken as cheering against bookstores, and I didn't mean to imply that.

#11 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 04:46 PM:

At a talk that I went to, I remember someone saying that people with ebook readers are more likely to buy more books that people that just buy physical copies.

Or, rather, that people who buy lots of books are more likely to have ebook readers than people who buy few books. I'm not disputing the correlation, but you seem to be implying a causation that I'm not sure is there. (And, just to be clear, when you say "buy more books" you're including both ebooks and paper books, correct?)

#12 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2011, 07:08 PM:

People who buy lots of pop or rock or rap music are also likely, on average, to buy more classical music, or jazz, or folk. Cos some people have music-buying habits. And some have word-buying habits. And some of us have both.

#13 ::: Heather K ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2011, 02:57 AM:

As long as we're discussing indie bookstores, I'd like to mention Indiebound which allows readers to patronize indie bookstores nationwide. It also allows bookstores to have a web presence even if they don't have their own web page. It has an affiliate program, and many of the member bookstores sell Google ebooks.

I think publicizing this site will go a long way toward maintaining the viability of the indie bookstore.

#14 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 12:11 PM:

Well, are books dead?

#15 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2011, 12:50 PM:

Well, are books dead?

No, but the Guardian had to fill some column inches anyway.

#16 ::: David Wald ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2011, 12:46 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 15: No, but the Guardian had to fill some column inches anyway.

Presumably because newspapers are having their own troubles.

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