Here's the skinny: According to a May 19, 2009, report from Bowker (the global leader in bibliographical information management solutions) the statistics are as follows for U.S. book publishing for 2008, compiled from its Books In Print® database. Based on preliminary figures from U.S. publishers, Bowker is projecting that title output in 2008 decreased by 3.2%, with 275,232 new titles and editions, down from the 284,370 that were published in 2007.
Interestingly, this decline in traditional book publishing is offset by another extraordinary year of growth in the reported number of “On Demand” and short-run books produced in 2008. Bowker projects that 285,394 On Demand books were produced last year, a staggering 132% increase over last year’s final total of 123,276 titles. This is the second consecutive year of triple-digit growth in the On Demand segment, which in 2008 was 462% above levels seen as recently as 2006.
Those numbers are not promising for traditional publishing, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate those percentages and determine the ultimate result when the lines cross on the X-Y axes chart.
According to Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publishing services for Bowker, “Our statistics for 2008 benchmark an historic development in the
I must agree with Ms. Gallagher that it looks like On Demand printing is, indeed, changing the face of publishing from the traditional publishing model. A few more years with the numbers continuing in the same direction may result in a huge consolidation of the remaining traditional publishers or a complete revision of the business model that will incorporate the POD technologies. We've already seen some of this change by the decisions of traditional publishers to offer digital versions. But that's a can of worms I'm not going to address in this post.
Retrenching, as Ms. Gallagher calls it, is not uncommon when technology changes the playing field. A similar consolidation took place a few years ago in the commercial printing industry. Digital printing and CTP (computer-to-plate) capabilities opened new markets for the larger commercial printers. Consolidation resulted, making the large printers larger, and the smaller ones were either absorbed or driven out of the business. Could this happen with traditional book publishing? Unfortunately, yes, it can. And it may be heading in that direction at lightspeed. With today’s ever-changing technology and the ability of any writer to take advantage of those services, traditional publishers, editors and literary agents are no longer necessary in order to get a writer's work to market and to the end user in either a hard copy or a digital copy format. It could happen. It's happening right this moment.
So there you have it. It appears that things are changing. What do you think?