News & Trends: Book Sales Forecast to Grow (Slightly)
Dissent Over Data
There were 130,477 active publishers in 2008, according to U.S. ISBN agency R.R. Bowker, a 27-percent increase over 2007. Most of this increase was within the $50 million per year or less small-publisher category, according to “Trends.” This data has been questioned by some industry observers, however, including Publishers Marketplace’s Michael Cader, who questions the “aggressive sales] estimates” for the small publishers category. His article following BEA in his Publishers Lunch e-newsletter, titled “The Problem with Statistics: BISG’s New Method Still Inflates the Unknown,” takes issue with the report’s methodology.
The “Trends” report queries more than 70,000 publishers by e-mail, and only about 500 companies responded with data and projections this year. Cader argues that “Trends” arrives at its numbers via “the magic of multiplication (and fancy statistical methods to align and ‘triangulate’ the new information versus the previous, also unproven, numbers), a fraction of real information turns into billions of dollars of revenue.”
Healy’s response to such criticism: “Statistical sampling of the kind we used in the preparation of ‘Trends 2009’ … is a valid approach in our view, and it’s difficult to see what other practicable approaches there are in a market of so many companies,” he says. “However, it’s important to stress that our surveys were supplemented and stress-tested by other tools, including interviews with key executives and reviews of other independent data sources. At BISG, we continue to look at ways to improve the accuracy and authority of ‘Trends,’ which we believe remains the most reliable source of the size of our complex and fast-changing industry.”