An American writer/blogger, Maya Reynolds, wonders if too many books are being published in America. The views from those in the U.S. publishing industry seem to mixed. Here're some excerpts from her blog post.
I did a bit of research and came up with the following numbers from Bowker, the world's leading provider of bibliographic information:The number of titles published per 1,000 people in the U.S. averages around 0.6. Whereas in India, it was estimated that 70,000 titles were published across all languages in 2004, which works out to about 0.07 titles published per 1,000 people in India, an order of magnitude lower than the figure for the U.S.
U.S. Title Output: 2001___142,000
U.S. Title Output: 2002___150,000
U.S. Title Output: 2003___175,000
U.S. Title Output: 2004___195,000
U.S. Title Output: 2005___172,000
According to Bowker, 2005 was "the first decline in U.S. title output since 1999, and only the 10th downturn recorded in the last 50 years. It follows the record increase of more than 19,000 new books in 2004."
Bowker announced the 2005 numbers on 5/9/06. On 5/10/06, Publishers Weekly (PW) parsed the numbers: "Figures indicate that the largest decline occurred at small and mid-sized houses; production from the smallest house fell 7%, while new titles from small-to-medium and medium-to-large publishers dropped 10% and 15%, respectively. New titles from the largest houses fell 4.7%, to 23.017, while new titles from university press rose 1.8%."
Five days after that article, PW published a second story: "The 9% decline in title output that R.R. Bowker estimates for 2005 is being viewed by most industry members as a needed correction to years of overproduction, though many said the drop isn't big enough and that the cutbacks--which are predominantly at small and medium-sized houses--are coming from the wrong place."
The article continued, quoting Jane Friedman of HarperCollins who said that "most everyone agrees that too many books have been published" and "publishers 'need to get more out of the books they publish,' by either selling more copies or by leveraging their content in digital formats."
Another publisher, Rudy Shur of Square One, had his own viewpoint: "'Thinking that the more books you can produce will make more money for a publisher is neither bad or good--it's stupid' . . . Many booksellers said that while a decrease in production is positive, the numbers need to come down even more."
Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, disagrees. In a 5/1/06 PW article, he said, "more choice will lead to more sales . . . he thought it was encouraging for the book industry that sales of used books has doubled, the growth of POD/self-publishers has exploded and purchase of niche titles online has grown significantly."
Of course, PW pointed out that "While those developments may be positive ones for consumers, they are not necessarily good trends for many traditional publishers."
I'd point out that the doubling of sales of used books is also not helpful to authors unless you regard the opportunity to reach more readers as helpful.
The problems and challenges in the mature American market are very different from that in a nascent, under-served, high growth potential market like India. The number of titles published each year in India, especially in the Indian languages, needs to grow exponentially to cater to the hunger for knowledge in India. The future for publishing is in Asia and Africa.