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.
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“Awesome,” should be the headline to describe the features and analytical power of the new AAP/BISG sponsored Bookstats report on industry sales and trends, for which the analytical work is managed by Bowker.
It is especially so when one looks back on the decades during which BISG struggled with data gathering and data analysis tools that were short of the task—resting on a lot of intuitive extrapolation; and the AAP contented itself with industry reporting that used actual returns from participating publishers and no extrapolations; and neither included most of the emerging vast universe of independent publishers. And publishers had two sets of figures to work with.
Now the BISG’s accessible “data cube” dashboard analytics can enable you to focus and drill down between and among 10 categories: five adult and juvenile trade levels, K-12, higher education, professional and “all others”; six physical formats (hard, soft, mass market, textbooks, audio, other), and five digital formats (eBooks, audio downloads, course materials, internet products and services, “other non-physical”), and bundled products and “all other formats”; and seven retail channels (chains, indies, mass, specialty, college, online retail, unclassified), plus direct to consumer, institutional, clubs and fairs, export, jobbers and wholesalers and “all others.”
You can learn not only that publisher sales in all formats and through all channels between 2010 and 2011 dropped 2.5% from $27.9 billion to $27.2 billion, while unit sales rose 3.4% from 2.68 to 2.77 billion – but if you purchase the “deep dive” option you can find the increases or decreases by second level of bisac codes.
You can see how your own direct-to-consumer sales stack up to the 58% increase to $1.11 billion for all categories. Data can be downloaded in spreadsheet and other formats.
You can compare your own company’s performance within the overall industry as well as within four major tiers, > $100 million, 50 to 100 million, 500,000 to 5 million, and under 500,000. If you are in Trade you can see how your ebook sales fell within the 15% for the total category, or the 30% of sales for adult trade.
Critical to the integrity and utility of these numbers is the reconciliation of the different ways in which publishers define their metadata labels (What is a direct to consumer sale? What is a course materials sale?) and the correlation to totals for the industry of the actual numbers of publishers participating in the survey both to their size as well as numbers.
The Bowker ISBN data base used in the methodology remains the most reliable index to publishers and publishing activity by title. Of the some 35.000 active publishers since 2008 in their Books in Print data base, 1,977 took part in the survey this year and 1,963 in 2010 (Incidentally, if you take part when their window opens in January, you get free copies of the main results).
In order to arrive at extrapolations from the survey responses to the total industry, they broke the 35,000 down by isbn count to four size groups: Very Large (greater than 10,000) – 49; Large (1000-10,000) – 364; Medium (100-1000), 1,500 and Small (under 100) - 33,886.
As reported by participants in each of 13 peer groups used (e.g. adult fiction trade, technical and scientific, very small, etc), an average of sales revenue dollars per peer group and size group isbn was calculated. This was done by, for example, dividing the sales in the case of law books by medium sized law book publishers who responded by their number of titles for sale. In this case, the average turned out to be $20,000. This was multiplied by the total isbn count for medium sized law publishers in the data base to arrive at total projected sales. These calculations for all categories and size groups were combined to arrive at projected total industry sales.
A visit to BISG.org will provide a press release summary of Bookstats 2012 and tell you how to purchase various levels of the report. If you are a member or participate in the survey, the summary report is free, otherwise it can be purchased. The release itself provides little beyond overall industry sales figures and some highlight teasers – so it behooves people who want a comprehensive picture to join BISG, take part in the survey or take the plunge and pay $99.00 for the summary.
In a webinar on August 29 with an overview of methodology, the structure of the data cube, the functionalities of the dashboard and the elements of the “deep dive” into bisac slicing were demonstrated. Tina Jordan, AAP Vice President, Angela Bole, BISG Deputy Director, and Kelly Gallagher, Bowker Research Director Vice President, made the presentation. It bears noting that they, along with Judith Applebaum among others, have tenaciously led the BISG Trends Committee & AAP during the past 5 years to manage this significant transition for the industry.
It has been a long road since the pioneering John Dessauer and Bowker, as well as John Huenefeld in the small press arena, undertook to try and track the metrics of this industry in the “last century” post-war era before BISG began to seek ways with Fordham University’s marketing professor Al Greco to offer more comprehensive and reliable industry forecasts.
When all is said and done, it remains the fact that the largest part of book publishing at heart is more an art than a science, and more a fashion than a commodity business – especially in trade, less so in professional. In STM, education and in training, institutional markets provide metric boundaries now threatened by the ubiquitous tools of author empowerment, digital editions and social networking.
In all markets, the Internet, print-on-demand and digital editions have lowered the barriers not only to entry but to segment definition
All the forecasting in the world cannot mitigate the risk investment of developing and writing a book and introducing it to the market. Nor can it mitigate the erosion of authenticity that artificial intelligence algorithms, ease of copying and search make possible in assembling synthetic works.
But a baseline from which to deal with uncertainty and authenticity remains of great value – and to the extent that it accurately reflects market behavior, the new BISG/AAP/Bowker Bookstats tools takes advantage of data gathering and analytical tools in a way that will enable the industry to better keep pace with what it is all about.