Although the largest U.S. trade book houses published significantly fewer titles last year, the total number of books published in the U.S. jumped 6%, to more than 150,000 titles in 2002, according to R.R. Bowker's annual look at book industry statistics. While that figure represents a 5.8% increase in the total number of books, new titles from the largest trade houses declined about 5%, with the biggest reductions in the adult fiction and travel categories.
The Bowker survey offers a portrait of an industry bracing for a down economy and a decline in sales even while technology makes it easier than ever to create, publish and sell more books.
Andrew Grabois, senior director of publisher relations and content development at R.R. Bowker, suggested that the decline in numbers from large houses is likely a consequence of the September 11 attacks. Grabois told PW that general trade publishers anticipated "a slowdown in the general business climate" and "adopted a defensive posture characterized by conservative publishing choices and a scaling down of lists." University presses partly filled the breach, increasing their title production by just more than 10% last year after a decline of 4% in 2001.
Despite reductions in the number of adult fiction titles, that category remains the biggest, with more than 17,000 new fiction titles released in 2002. More than 10,000 titles in the juvenile category were released last year, a record number according to Grabois.
The study found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the price gap between trade paper and mass market titles—generally thought to be shrinking—increased 18 cents to $11.75. But the average price of a book continues to rise. According to Bowker's figures, the number of books priced between $30 and $40 increased by almost 15%, to more than 800 titles. The average retail price for an adult trade hardcover book increased 20 cents, to $27.52, in 2002. Adult trade fiction rose 25 cents, to $25.05, and nonfiction hardcover titles increased 11 cents to $28.60.
The average price of adult trade paperbacks increased slightly, about 2 cents, to $15.77; and adult trade mass market titles increased 32 cents, to $7.30. Juvenile hardcovers rose 12 cents, to $15.93. The average price of a university press hardcover decreased about 11 cents, to $51.09, in 2003, while UP trade paper titles rose 11 cents, to $18.30, a figure about $2.53 higher on average than trade paper books published by trade book publishers.
Grabois noted that thanks to technology, the personal computer and the Internet, the number of new book publishing startups grew by 15% over the same period last year. More than 10,000 new publishers came on the scene in 2002, and Grabois said that the number of new publishers has been increasing at roughly the same rate since the early 1990s. "Creating and selling is easier and there are more channels through which to sell books. The Web is like an unlimited catalogue," said Grabois. More than 15% of the titles from these new, mostly small publishers is adult fiction, although religion, poetry and kids' books are also strong categories for startups.
The data cited is culled from Bowker's Books in Print database and represents input from about 73,000 publishers. Grabois said data from the largest publishers is submitted to Bowker electronically on a regular basis. Smaller publishers have password-protected log-ons to Bowker's BIP database and regularly update their information. More statistical information on the U.S. book industry can be found through Bowker's Bookwire.com portal and at www.booksinprint.com.