Bowker: Print-on-Demand Up, Traditional Books Down for 2008

by Staff

There was a slight decline in traditional book production last year, but the number of print-on-demand books more than doubled, reported Bowker, the agency that publishes the Books In Print database and assigns ISBNs. Yesterday the company released statistics showing a 3 percent decrease in the number of new titles and editions published using the conventional model while production of print-on-demand and short-run titles, typically produced by self-publishers and online publishers, rose 132 percent. The statistics are based on preliminary data from over 75,000 publishers.

Last year, 285,394 new print-on-demand titles were produced, up from 123,276 in 2007, whereas the number of new conventional titles dipped to 275,232. The on-demand figure rose 774 percent from 2002, compared to a 126 percent increase in traditional production.

Among the ranks of traditional books, fiction maintained its 2007 position as the category with the most new titles and editions printed (47,541), followed by juvenile, sociology/economics, religion, and science. While the number of poetry titles fell 9 percent from 2007, the 2008 figure remains 83 percent higher than it was in 2002, second only to fiction, up 89 percent from six years ago.

"The statistics from last year are not just an indicator that the industry had a decline in new titles coming to the market, but they're also a reflection of how publishers are getting smarter and more strategic about the specific kinds of books they’re choosing to publish," said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for Bowker, in a press release. "It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench."