Book publishing in the U.S.: Bigger than we thought?

People still read and buy print books: That’s a given. (If you disagree, you’re ignoring all available evidence.)

The print book field isn’t dying: That’s also a given, based on all available info (and, depending on the way you measure, digital aspects of the book field represent anywhere from 0.05% to maybe 3%–there are a lot of ways to measure!).

But just how much do people spend on books?

For years, the typical number came from AAP; for 2004 or 2005, that was around $23.7 billion.

Then the Book Industry Study Group studied smaller publishers broadly enough to come up with a considerably larger number: $34.6 billion for 2005 (plus another $2.2 billion in used book sales). The difference, roughly $11 billion, is all those publishers–some of them only doing one book–that aren’t part of AAP’s constituency (mostly larger publishers).

Well, I ran into a surprise in this morning’s paper, and it’s verified by the U.S. Census bureau’s website: the adjusted number for 2005 is $51.9 billion (including ebooks, to be sure, but that’s certainly less than 3% of that number, no matter what definition you use). (Click on the book sales 2004-2009 table.)

The paper highlighted the 2007 projection: $55.5 billion for somewhere between 3.1 and 3.2 billion books. With a projection of $53.7 billion for this year.

The growth numbers may not be exciting, but that’s still steady growth–3.4% for this year, a similar projection for next year, and $1.8 billion annual growth is nothing to sneeze at.

Oh, by the way, what about the segment of the industry where well-designed ebooks should have an impact, namely textbooks? Elhi is a $5.5 billion market; higher education is a $6.4 billion market.

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