Are Books Obsolete? An Analysis of Data from Titles Printed
A common view is that books are obsolete, and for two reasons: People just aren't interested in reading these days, and for those who are, ebook readers, such as the Kindle, are taking over.
Not according to at least one indication. The number of new book titles printed each year continues to increase, and the increase over the last decade is dramatic. Bowker, an information service company, reported that 215,138 book titles were published in 2002. This increased to 302,410 in 2009, and the projected total (based on preliminary data) for 2010 was 316,480.
The increase in titles published holds even when we consider the increase in the population of the US. The population in 2002 was estimated to be about 288,600,000. In 2010 it was estimated to be about 318,750,00 million. The ratio of books per person in the US has increased: In 2002, there was one book published for every 1342 people, in 2010, there was one book published for every 1007 people.
This analysis only includes books published in each year in the traditional way. Non-traditional publications, on-demand and downloaded, increased incredibly, from around 32,000 titles in 2002 to nearly 3 million in 2010.
There is some indication that pleasure reading is doing well. In 2002, fiction made up 12% of all titles; in 2010, it was estimated to make up 15%. Poetry and drama titles were 2.7% of the total in 2002 and in 2010 they were projected to be 3.6%. Biography was 3.2% of the total ten years ago, in 2010, 3.8%.
Combining all these categories results in overall increase of about 4% in titles aimed at pleasure readers, and a huge increase in the number of titles published (from about 39,000 titles published in 2002 to about 69,000). The only negative news was that book titles categorized as "juvenile" were a smaller percentage of the total published in 2010 (10%, compared to 14%), the total number of juvenile titles increased only modestly, from 30,504 to 32,638; it went as high as 38,000 in 2004.
Old-fashioned book reading seems to be doing OK.
Title printed data available at bowker.com
Population estimates from www.census, gov.