Industry Statistics: Looking Behind the Numbers
Ever since the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) hit upon the theme of “Making Information Pay” for its annual spring event several years ago, it has been filling the room with industry analysts and marketing and business development executives eager for new insights into the mysteries of our industry’s operation, well-being and future. The attendees are generally more interested, I think, in road signs pointing to where we’re going than in measures of where we are—more acutely aware that, in some ways, the information camera may not focus as well on today’s industry snapshots.
Useful and reliable industry information always has been hard to come by. But in the past century, we have been blessed by devoted professionals who have labored in the halls of such organizations as the Census Bureau, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the American Booksellers Association (ABA), Association of American University Presses (AAUP), BISG, and R.R. Bowker and Knowledge Industry Publications (original publishers of BP Report and Educational Marketer, and predecessor to Simba Information) to unearth the data that define our business.
Data is expensive to come by in almost any industry composed of thousands of enterprises and channels of distribution. And for those who assemble it, the data is understandably an asset to be monetized. Nonetheless, the information comes through to the industry at large—by way of press releases and copies that are passed around, as well as bird-dogging by trade magazines such as Book Business, and reporters such as Jim Milliott at Publishers Weekly, Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch, Frank Romano––whose affiliations, including Printing Industries of American/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, are too numerous to cite––or John Mutter at Shelf
Current Sources of Industry
In addition to AAP and AAUP, business and publishing data comes from Bowker (ISBN, Books in Print and other products), Simba Information (Book Publishing Report, Educational Marketer, among others) Open Book Publishing (Subtext), and Nielsen’s BookScan and The Book Standard. These organizations provide various levels of information that publishers use for various purposes:
- American Booksellers Association
- Association of American Publishers
- Book Publishing Report
- Evangelical Christian Publishers Association
- Fordham University
- Independent Publishers Group
- National Association of College Stores
- National Book Network (NBN)
- Nielsen Media Research
- Publishers Weekly
- Simba Information
- The Book Industry Study Group
Eugene G. Schwartz is editor at large for ForeWord Reviews, an industry observer and an occasional columnist for Book Business magazine. In an earlier career, he was in the printing business and held production management positions at Random House, Prentice-Hall/Goodyear and CRM Books/Psychology Today. A former PMA (IBPA) board member, he has headed his own publishing consultancy, Consortium House. He is also Co-Founder of Worthy Shorts Inc., a development stage online private press and publication service for professionals as well as an online back office publication service for publishers and associations. He is on the Publishing Business Conference and Expo Advisory Board.