That book publishing is becoming more accessible to authors and independent publishers was reflected in the book production statistics released last week by Bowker. While the number of traditional titles fell in 2008 by 3%, the number of on-demand, short run and unclassified soared 132%, to 285,394. The 2008 jump followed an even bigger increase in on-demand/short run titles in 2007, when output rose to 123,276 titles from 21,936; the latter figure is approximately the number of books produced by AuthorSolutions, the largest online publisher, itself last year. Larger publishers are also using on-demand printing more. In a case study of John Wiley's use of print-on-demand, Lightning Source, the largest POD printer, said the publisher now has 10,000 titles in Lightning's system and is adding between 150 and 300 titles per month. In January 2009, Lightning said it produced 65,000 units for Wiley on a worldwide basis.

The combination of the rapid growth of on-demand printing and the decline in the number of traditional titles resulted in the number of on-demand titles topping traditional titles for the first time in 2008. In the 2004—2008 period, the number of traditional titles published fell 2.0%, while the number of on-demand titles released skyrocketed by 1,346.5%. In all, the total number of titles produced in 2008, including traditional, rose by 38%, to 560,626.

While improved technology has made the use of on-demand printing more economically attractive, the economy also played a role in reducing the number of traditional titles released last year. Output in the travel segment fell 15% last year, the largest decline among all categories, while the number of fiction titles, which publishers consider riskier to publish than nonfiction, fell just over 11%. Categories that posted the biggest gains were education, up 33%, and business, up 14%.

Title Output, 2004—2008

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 % CHANGE 2004—08
Source: Bowker
Traditional 275,793 251,903 274,416 284,370 275,232 -2.0%
On-demand, Short Run, Other Unclassified 19,730 30,597 21,936 123,276 285,394 1,346.5%
Total 295,523 282,500 296,352 407,646 560,626 89.7%

Title Output in Selected Categories

Category 2007 2008 % CHANGE
Source: Bowker
Fiction 53,590 47,541 -11.2%
Juvenile 31,009 29,438 -5.1
Sociology/Economics 24,546 24,423 -0.5
Religion 19,540 16,847 -13.8
Poetry/Drama 11,610 10,536 -9.2