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Book Publishing Industry Statistics – Part 1

The dismal state of publishing is often enough in the air these days so that we can’t avoid watching people wring their hands about the changes, real or imagined, that plague this sector. The subject therefore gets a lot of coverage in print–the print media being part of publishing too. With this as background, we thought we’d take a look at the statistics available on publishing, specifically book publishing.

To get an overall view of trends, we graph, below, industry shipments for the 1982-1996 period and, thereafter, through 2008, industry receipts. What is reported by the Census Bureau changed between these periods, but the definitions (shipments/receipts) are close enough for trend analysis. We show these data in current (actual) as well as in inflation-adjusted dollars. The  picture suggests an industry that’s doing reasonably well.

U.S. Book Publishing Industry Statistics

While this is a very broad overview of the subject, and there is a flattening out in recent years of what had been a most robust growth trend, the picture is positive. And this makes us ask: what is all the fuss about? Are other industries doing substantially better than book publishing? If industry shipments and receipts are not showing signs of decline, what factors are causing the sense of doom of which we hear so much these days?

Clearly, we will have to dig much deeper to answer those questions.

Notes on the Data Graphed

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks economic activity with a number of important surveys that it carries out at regular intervals. The most comprehensive of these is the Economic Census carried out in all years ending in 2 and 7, so, most recently, in 2007 and before that in 2002. In between the full Economic Census years the Bureau undertakes  a different series of surveys to track sectors, if not at the same level of detail. The two series we used were the Annual Survey of Manufactures and the Services Annual Survey. Book publishing used to be classified as part of Manufacturing until 1997; in that year it was reclassified and is now part of the newly created Information sector.


One Response

  1. […] Examining the economic struggles of the publishing industry, graph-style. Part one. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part […]

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