Concentration processes on the U.S. book market

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2008 16 Pages

Book Science



Subject of this Paper

1 Key figures of the U.S. book market
1.1 The overall book market
1.2 Publishing
1.3 Retailing
1.4 Distribution

2 Concentration on the U.S. book market
2.1 Publishing
2.1.1 Trade books
2.1.2 Total publishing
2.2 Retailing
2.2.1 Bookstores
2.2.2 Online retailing
2.2.3 Book clubs
2.3 Distribution

3 Conclusion


Subject of this Paper

This paper will treat the theme of consolidation processes on the U.S. book mar­ket. Concentration within the book industry of course is an international phe­no­me­non but the U.S. are of certain interest as they boast the by far largest book market in the world[1]. Moreover, the concentration on this book market has reached a very high level and is certainly one of the highest in comparison with international book markets. And developments on U.S. markets in general often tend to in­flu­ence or to an­ti­cipate those of other countries.

To begin with, there shall be given an overiew over basic figures of the U.S. book market. Subsequently, concentration processes in all of the three branches of the book industry shall be examined – with a focus on the publishing and retailing bu­siness.


As there doesn’t seem to be an American correspondence to the German Buch und Buchhandel in Zahlen with annual statistics covering the whole U.S. book ­mar­ket[2], the research on more current figures of the American book market – at least from Germany – turned out to be to a large extent dependend on research on the world wide web. Hence, a majority of sources used in this paper are online sources. The search was quite toiling though and existing statistics about certain areas of the book market often show dif­ferent fi­gures depending on the source – sometimes explainably, sometimes not.

The statement of John Dessauer dating from 1981, that the book industry research in the U.S. doesn’t have a good reputation, seems to be still true even if improve­ments as the foundation of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) have been made.[3] At least, if nothing else, the accessibility of comprehensive in­for­ma­tion leaves much to be de­sired.

One very helpful source for getting an overview of the current American book­ mar­ket is the website www.bookstatistics.com. There, an author and publisher continously gathers any kind of in­for­­ma­tion about the U.S. book market and also states the respective sour­ces. Another quite helpful source in this respect showed to be the website of the magazine Publisher’s Weekly, www.publishers­weekly.com. As a third one shall be mentioned the magazine Buchreport, espe­cially its weekly version Buchreport.express, regularly featuring articles about the book market in the USA.

As to a survey covering the overall American book market, the latest one I could find or get hold of respectively was the work Book Publishing USA by Oda / Sanislo[4]. This study served mainly as a reference for comparisons between the situation today and an earlier one.

1 Key figures of the U.S. book market

1.1 The overall book market

Unfortunately, I didn’t come across figures about the turnover of the whole U.S. book industry. Only about the respective sales of publishers and retailers which shall be stated and commented on below.

In 2006[5], the output of new titles and editions reached the number of 291,922, representing an increase of 3.3% compared to the output in 2005. “This rise reverses the title output drop experienced in 2005, which came after seven years of increases and a peak of 295,523 new titles issued in 2004.”[6] Interesting about this is that Bowker from 2005 has used a new methodology – adding books in unclassified categories; ones that didn't include prices and had nontraditional bindings –, leading to numbers far higher than in previous statistics. The original estimate for 2005 for example was about 175,000 new titles and editions.[7] Bowker obviously employed the new methodology also to preceding years. Comparing the previous figures, the title output showed an increase of 83% between 1993 and 2004 (up from 104,124 to 190,078).[8] Some 30 percent of the new titles printed in 2005 “were printed in quantities of less than 100 units.”[9]

As to book exports and imports, the exports, helped by a weak dollar, went up 9.6% in 2007, to $2.13 billion, after a gain of 2.8% in 2006. The by far biggest importer of U.S. books, with 45% of the total exports, was Canada, followed by the U.K. with 14% and Australia with 5%. Whereas the 2007 gains in shipments to the top 3 trading partners were quite reasonable, the sixth biggest import market, Germany, boasted an increase of 99%, amounting to $76.2 million (3.6% of total exports). At the same time also the imports went up significantly – by 7.4%, to $2.28 billion. China alone, the biggest foreign book manufacturer, accounts for $815.7 million, i.e. 36% of total imports. A 12.5% increase of Chinese book imports may sound high, but this means in fact “the lowest [increase] since China began ramping up its manufacturing capabilities in the late 1990s.” Second and third came the U.K. with $332.6 million (up 16%) or $298.7 (up 2.2%) respec­tively.[10]

Unit sales are reported to amount to 692 million (up 5% over 2006) in 2007 in one source,[11] but 3.13 billion in another one.[12] The first one evidently covers trade books[13] sold through outlets (“about 70% of the outlets where books are sold”), whereas the second source seems to refer to the total number of books sold by publishers. Apparently, according to the Publishers Weekly, the sales of best­sellers increased much more than the total sales, indicating a growing im­por­tance of best­sellers.[14]

1.2 Publishing

According to an estimate by The Association of American Publishers (AAP) U.S. publishers had net sales of $25 billion in 2007, representing a 3.2 percent increase from 2006.[15] Yet, the BISG estimates that total publishers’ net revenues in 2007 reached $37.26 billion.[16] The main reason for the obvious difference is that the BISG in 2006 expanded its data sources to also “cover the significant and growing segment of the U.S. book publishing market composed of companies with annual revenues of up to $50 million”.[17] In 2006, this group comprised about 115,000 pub­lishers and accounted for sales of about $11 billion.[18]

There was no current information available about the total number of U.S. publishing hou­ses. Regarding the information above there should be well over 100,000 publishers in the U.S. Anyway, the number appears to have grown enormously: one source reports an increase from about 73,000 (“plus those who publish through POD/DotCom publishers; they use the publisher's ISBN block”) in 2003 to 85,000 publishers in 2004. The same source also refers to the BISG, stating that 94% of the U.S. publishers sold less than $1-million of books in 2004.[19]

1.3 Retailing

In 2007, retail sales at bookstores[20] reached $16.77 billion, which is a rise of mo­dest 1.1% over 2006’s sales. Last year’s sales, however, developed quite dif­fer­ent­­ly in the first and the second half of 2007: from January to June, the report shows nothing but losses, reaching from -1.4% to -6.7%; from July to December, the picture is reverse, with gains between 2.7% and 9.3%.[21] That gains in sales, espe­cially in July and August, were to some extent due to a single book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,[22] is again proof of the growing importance of best­sel­lers.

According to a study by Publishers Weekly, the number of stores that sell books in the USA, including independent book­stores and book chains as well as su­permarkets, amounted to 11,311 in 2007.[23] The number of bookstores in 2005/06 is repor­ted to be around 5,200.[24]

While online retailers had a share of 10% of the sold books in 2002,[25] they accounted for 20% of unit book purchases last year.[26] This is a natural trend since internet usage and acceptance of online purchasing in general have grown over the last years.

1.4 Distribution

In the U.S., retailers mainly buy directly from publishers rather than from whole­salers; and the trend is even going towards increased direct pur­chases. Direct purchases of trade books rose from 78.1% in 1994 to 81.3% in 1999. Whereas bestsellers are often bought direct, especially if ordered large quantities, replenish­ments are done through wholesalers.[27]

Like in Germany, there are both wholesalers and distributors in the U.S. Whole­salers buy books from publishers for own account and offer certain services and advantages to booksellers; distributors have contracts with publishers to distribute their books for a fee.[28]


[1] Cf. Börsenblatt. Website: Amerikaner lesen sieben Bücher im Jahr. URL: http://www.boersen­blatt.net/­159189/ [08.27.2007 / 05.02.2008].

[2] One rather expensive, but promising annual publication, Book Industry Trends by the Book Industry Study Group, was – at least regarding the ones for the years after 2003 – impossible to get hold of in Germany. The table of contents provided online for the 2007 issue indicates a focus on the publishing industry.

[3] Cf. Dessauer, John P.: Buchmarkt-Forschung in den USA. In: Dorsch, Petra E. / Teckentrup, Konrad H. (eds.): Buch und Lesen International. Berichte und Analysen zum Buchmarkt und zur Buchmarkt-Forschung. Gütersloh 1981, p. 665.

[4] Oda, Stephanie / Sanislo, Glenn: Book Publishing USA – Facts, Figures, Trends, Factors Shaping the US Book Industry 2000–2001. London / Frankfurt/M. 2001.

[5] There shall always be stated the latest figures I could get which might lead to a certain nonuniformity.

[6] R. R. Bowker. Website: Bowker Reports U.S. Book Production Rebounded Slightly in 2006. URL: http://www.bowker.com/index.php/press-releases-2007/146 [05.31.2007 / 05.05.2008].

[7] Publishers Weekly. Website: Title Output up. URL: http://www.publishersweekly.com/­article/CA6452640.html [06.18.2007 / 05.05.2008].

[8] Cf. BookWire. Website. URL: http://www.bookwire.com/bookwire/decadebookproduction.html [05.07.2008].

[9] Ward, Noel. Quoted on URL: http://www.bookstatistics.com/sites/para/resources/­statistics.cfm [July 2006 / 05.07.2008].

Yet, the author of this quotation mentioned a number of 200,000 new titles in 2005, which doesn’t correspond to any output number I could find.

[10] Cf. Milliot, Jim: China Book Trade Leaps. URL: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/­CA6433892.html [04.16.2007 / 05.07.2008]; Milliot, Jim: Exports Post Solid Gains in 2007. URL: http://www.publishersweekly.com/­article/­CA6550870.html [04.14.2008 / 05.07.2008].

[11] Cf. Publishers Weekly. Website: Units Up 5% in 2007. BookScan puts number sold at 692 million. URL: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6522183.html [01.14.2008 / 05.05.2008].

[12] Cf. Healy, Michael: Book Industry TRENDS 2008 Shows Publishers’ Net Revenues Rose 4.4 Percent in 2007 to Reach $37.26 billion. Projections Estimate 2012 Revenues at $43.46 Billion. URL: http://www.bisg.org/news/press.php?pressid=49 [05.31.2008 / 06.28.2008].

[13] Defintion of trade book: “a book intended for sale to the general public, as distinguished from a textbook, subscription book, etc.”; Your Dictionary. Website. URL: http://www.your­dictionary.com/trade-book [05.05.2008].

[14] Cf. Publishers Weekly. Website: Units Up 5% in 2007. BookScan puts number sold at 692 million [01.14.2008].

[15] Cf. The Association of American Publishers. Website: AAP Reports Book Sales Rose to $ 25 Billion in 2007. URL: http://www.publishers.org/main/IndustryStats/indStats_02.htm [05.31.2008 / 05.05.2008].

[16] Cf. Healy 2008.

[17] Cf. Healy 2008.

[18] Cf. Buchreport.express, no. 24, 06.12.2007, p. 33.

[19] Cf. Para Publishing. Website. URL: http://bookstatistics.com/sites/para/resources/­statistics.cfm [05.08.2008].

[20] A bookstore in the context of this estimate is defined as “any retail establishment with sales comprised of more than 50 percent new books and periodicals”.

[21] Cf. American Booksellers Assocation. Website: Bookstore Sales Up for Sixth Consecutive Month. URL: http://news.bookweb.org/news/­5838.html [02.13.2008 / 05.14.2008].

[22] Cf. Börsenblatt. Website: Harry beschert guten August. URL: http://www.boersenblatt.net/­169821/ [10.16.2007 / 05.14.2008].

[23] Cf. Holt, Karen: All Bookselling Is Local. A state-by-state analysis finds a diverse landscape. URL: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6515672.html [12.31.2007 / 05.12.2008].

[24] Cf. Frankfurt Book Fair. Website: USA - Daten zur Buchproduktion. Informationen über die Buchproduktion in den USA. URL: http://www.book-fair.com/de/­networking/suchen_finden/buchmaerkte/­nordamerika/­usa/00056/ [05.02.2008].

[25] Cf. Para Publishing. Website. URL: http://www.bookstatistics.com/sites/para/­resources/­statistics.cfm [05.12.2008].

[26] Cf. Publishers Weekly. Website: Chains, Internet Dominate Bookselling. URL: http://www.publishers­weekly.com/article/CA6515670.html [12.31.2007 / 05.05.2008].

[27] Cf. Oda, Stephanie / Sanislo, Glenn: Book Publishing USA – Facts, Figures, Trends, Factors Shaping the US Book Industry 2000–2001. London / Frankfurt/M. 2001, pp. 80–81.

[28] Cf. Oda / Sanislo 2001, pp. 83–84.


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Title: Concentration processes on the U.S. book market