Despite the rising costs and tight supply of paper, increasing fuel costs impacting shipping prices, and growing pressure to cut inventory and increase turnaround times, among other challenges facing book publishers, two Book Business articles reveal positive news for the book manufacturing industry.
In the June issue, the “Top 30 Book Manufacturers” feature showed that revenue for 23 of the 30 book manufacturers listed had grown over the previous year. According to Book Business’ 2007 ranking (in the June 2007 issue), just 17 book manufacturers had reported revenue increases.
In this issue, in Book Business’ first compilation of leading digital book printers (story begins on page 33), 18 out of 20 printers indicated that they will purchase new equipment in the next 12 to 16 months. While we don’t have last year’s figures to compare with digital printers’ revenues this year, purchasing new equipment doesn’t seem to indicate decline. Market research and consulting company Interquest has estimated that between 2 percent and 3 percent of total book volume is currently produced digitally; it anticipates that figure will increase to 5 percent to 6 percent in 3 years.
According to the figures reported by the digital printers on Book Business’ listing, nearly 69 million book titles were printed digitally in 2007—and this doesn’t include a few companies (such as BookSurge) that have significant digital book printing businesses, but declined to provide figures for inclusion in the list.
One can’t overlook recent mergers, with some major manufacturing plants closing, but the above-mentioned statistics brighten some pictures of industry doom and gloom that have been painted in light of the digital evolution. Additional statistics also seem to point to the contrary. According to the Book Industry Study Group’s annual “Trends” report, in 2007, publishers’ net revenues grew 4.4 percent over 2006 to more than $37 billion. In 2006, revenues were up 3.2 percent over 2005.
According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), book sales in 2007 grew in every segment except mass-market paperbacks. AAP also reported that e-book sales increased 23.6 percent in 2007 (with $67 million in sales) and have seen a compound growth rate of 55.7 percent since 2002. And audiobook sales increased nearly 20 percent in 2007 to $218 million.
Whenever someone asks me if the industry is being impacted by the Internet and if e-book sales are going to hurt print sales, I think of Merriam-Webster President John Morse, saying that while the company’s Web site and other digital products are growing, it is also selling more print dictionaries than ever. Now, I have plenty of other examples to cite, including the fact that the majority (and an increasing number over 2006) of the top book manufacturers in North America are reporting growth, and digital book printers are investing in new equipment in anticipation of further growth. These are not signs of an industry in decline.