December 20 – December 27, 2007 Edition

U.S. Experts Ponder
State of Book Industry:
Dying or Re-emerging?

NEW YORK, NY/12/18/07–NPR’s recent book report in its On the Media segment continues to reverberate in several blog discussions this week, mostly agreeing with NPR’s assertion that “the new media are thriving. The old media are dying, or certainly merging into one another. The program featured several top industry experts.

Among interesting highlights of the program were the claim that some 60% of books are purchased in airports or at checkout counters such as Wal-Mart or Costco, rather than in brick-and-mortar stores.

The NPR program, hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, from WNYC, New York, reported that now owns 11 percent of the book-buying market. The rest, they said, are purchased mainly at big bookstore chains, which somewhat contradicts the first statement about airport and checkout counter sales.

A startling statistic quoted on the program was that membership of the American Booksellers Association, serving independent bookstores, has dropped from about 5,000 to an estimated 1,700 within the past ten years.

Avin Domnitz, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, and one of the guests on the show, said that in the last four years, the only segments of the book industry that has maintained or increased market share has been online and independent stores.

Domnitz believes that share may increase still more with the development of machines that can produce books in a few minutes in stores on demand. “New hardware will someday shift the balance back to the little guy,” said Domnitz.

Another guest, Jonathan Band, adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, was asked if book sales would be hurt by the practice of publishing excerpts or snippets on sites such as Google. “So far, if anything, the evidence goes the other way. Some publishers have discovered that the more content that they put online, meaning not just the snippets but pages or even chapters, the more readers want to buy the book; that the sampling really does help drive sales.”

Read the full transcript on NPR’s On the Media.