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Book minutiae

While looking at various blog posts via my RSS newsreader, I stumbled across a compilation of book-related statistics and facts at ParaPublishing. Although some are a bit dated, here’s several that caught my eye:

  • In 1947, there were 357 publishers, that increased to 12,000 in 1980, to nearly 53,000 in 1984 and an estimated 73,000 in 2003.
  • According to the Publishers Marketing Association, 78% of the book titles published came from small/self-publishers but Publishers Weekly reports that in 2002 five large New York publishers accounted for 45% of sales, with US sales of $4.1 billion.
  • A literary agency reports that the first print run for a mid-list book by a larger publisher is 10-15,000 books and the publisher must sell 10,000 copies to break even.
  • The last statistic is interesting when compared to the Authors Guild reporting that a successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies and a successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.
  • A study group reported that 59% of customers who enter a bookstore plan to purchase a specific book and 40% make impulse purchases.
  • The same study showed that 24.6% of book sales were by large chain stores, 17.7% via book clubs, 15.2% by smaller chains and independents and 5.4% over the internet. (The Wall Street Journal reported in June 2003, though, that online bookstores sold 10% of books in 2002.)
  • Membership in the American Booksellers Association, an organization for independently-owned bookstores, dropped 30% from 2000 to 2002.
  • Libraries lose 20% of their books each year.
  • According to Publishers Weekly, women buy 68% of all books. They are more likely to shop in discount stores and supermarkets than men, who are most likely to shop in chain stores.
  • A survey by the Jenkins Group provided some of the most shocking statistics:
    One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
    42% of college graduates never read another book.
    80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
    70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
    57% of new books are not read to completion. (Similarly, the American Booksellers Association reports that most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased).

A book is a mirror: if an ape looks into it an apostle is hardly likely to look out.

G.C. Lichtenberg, The Waste Books

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