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Book Publishing Industry Statistics – Part 3

In the first two parts of this look at the book publishing industry—through the lens of economic stats—we saw that over the past three decades overall industry receipts have had a pretty nice and steady growth pattern. Today we’ll try and see if we can detect any interesting pattern in terms of industry receipts that are broken out by product categories–types of books.

The categories we’ll use are those used by the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s their data that provides us with the most comprehensive look at the U.S. book publishing industry over time.

Book Publishing Receipts by Category

All five product categories saw growth over the period 1992 to 2007. The categories that saw the most robust growth were Reference Books (10.64% annually) and Technical, Professional and Scholarly Books (7.75% annually).

Now we may just be getting somewhere. Book publishers involved in the production of textbooks, reference books, and other nonfiction works appear to have done much better over the last fifteen years than did publishers of fiction. (All fiction is lumped together in a single category here–General Books–sadly). Book publishers focused on fiction, or at least the fiction divisions of publishing houses, saw receipts grow by 42.4% between 1992 and 2007, which translates to 2.83% per year. That is not a particularly impressive result, especially considering that the inflation rate during this period ran at 2.57% per year.

Book publishing as a whole has been doing pretty well, but the fiction publishing segment is loosing ground. In 1992 it represented 38.9% of the industry. By 2007 its share had dropped to 34.7%. While this is hardly an enormous drop, it is a downward trend. What we’d really like to do next is match up the industry receipts figures we have with some actual unit figures, although we’re not sure we will be able to track those down. But, we’ll try.

What is starting to be clearer to us as we study these statistics is just what is causing the sense of doom in the book publishing industry. Trying to sum it up, we could say that the relative decline of the fiction segment, coupled with important changes in the retailing of books and the uncertainty surrounding these shifts, is cause for worry. Cause for further study as well.

We’ll be back with more soon.

Detailed Source Note:

Data for 1992 come from Manufacturing USA, 5 edition, Gale Research, page 704, and are based on the 1992 Economic Census, Product Share Details. Data for 2007 come from the 2007 Economic Census, available online here. The Economic Census is produced every five years by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census.


2 Responses

  1. These data and graphics, besides being stunning and beautifully presented, reveal to me at least one unexpected surprise: the growth in reference books versus that in fiction.

    I’ll be pleased to learn more about those unit figures in the fiction category you are promising, and a more detailed classification within the fiction grouping would of course also be welcome.

    Thanks for a nice lesson in publishing stats.

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

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