The Digital Publishing Revolution Is in the Rearview Mirror
In 1990, Bowker tracked 25,000 new titles published. By 2007, that number reached 275,000, and by 2010, it reached 3 million. (While it is true that 85 percent of that 3 million are on-demand titles largely created by content farms scraping public domain websites—and publishing existing content under different titles, such as the "spamming" Amazon has been battling—it is strongly indicative of an explosion in the creation of, and the rendering available of, unimaginably large quantities of words and images. Moreover, Bowker is only counting books with ISBNs—a great deal of self-published output doesn't bother with ISBNs.)
In hindsight, Borders wasn't some cancer on the publishing body—the growth of superstores was a logical outcome of the growth of individual titles in the United States. For every medium-sized, older publishing house absorbed by corporate publishers during the 1980s and 1990s, 100 tiny presses arose. Title count at the corporate houses increased as the hunt for increased topline revenue was enabled by cheaper production costs.
The Next Digital Publishing Revolution
This is Publishing 2.0. This is the digital publishing revolution. It already happened. It was almost solely on the production side, however. Ironically, despite publishing's reputation as the fuddy-duddy one in the media, it was ahead of music, ahead of video. It wasn't until the early 2000s that desktop audio- and video-editing software was as cheap and easy to use as desktop publishing software. So, if the digital publishing revolution is in the rearview mirror, what the hell is this in front of us? Well, it's the next digital publishing revolution, and it is a consumption revolution.
While the creation of books was radically transformed, their consumption was not. For the bulk of even the last years of the 25-year-old "First Digital Publishing Revolution," most people read print books bought in bookstores … whereas people had been consuming music and video digitally for 10 to 15 years already! Granted, the delivery mechanisms were physical—CD and DVD—but the format was digital.