May 10, 2011


Statistics are figures that can mean anything in the hands of someone with an agenda; but I ran across a surprising set in a recent writers’ publication. I’ve probably commented on the book industry changing more than most people care to know, but the rate of change seems to be growing incrementally. Ebooks could overtake print editions in a few years. Here’s how the matter stands as of January 2011:

  • E-books grew by 115%
  • Mass market paperback books declined by 31%
  • Adult Hard cover books declined by 11%
  • Trade paperbacks declined by 20% (Association of American Publishers from an article by Dick Lutz in “Willamette Publisher”)

Being old enough to remember when electronic publishing was a writer’s last resort before self publishing, these statistics are mind boggling. But the trend doesn’t affect writers only. A dark shadow is being cast over the fate of neighborhood bookstores. While some consumers will continue to prefer the feel of paper between their fingers — and I’m one of them — I doubt our numbers will be large enough to sustain small establishments. I regret to say it, but chains stores will rule, though they, too, will be fewer in number.

As the cost of publishing declines more people are entering the self-publishing field. The competition for readers will be fierce. In the future authors will no longer be concerned with the question, “How do I become a published author?”  The question will be, “Do I have an audience?”  Marketing, not publishing, will be the new maze for writers to master.