Too Many Books?

Too Many Books?

Here’s an interesting twist to the report issued last week about the country’s reading habits, or lack thereof. American book sellers are selling fewer books. Can it be that there are just too many that are published?

In an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, authors Kevin Nance and Mike Thomas pose the question: can there be too many books, or at least more than is healthy for the industry as a whole? In 2003 alone, the authors write nearly 175,000 books were published in this country, “many released by an influx of independent publishers lured into the market by more accessible publishing technologies and distribution systems.”

According to the Sun-Times reporters, along with the recent study data, people are obviously reading less than they once did. Still, more than 20 books are published every hour in the day, every day.

Why the outpouring of books? “For some reason, everybody thinks they can write a book, and book publishing seems glamorous to them. But there’s no way the market can absorb all those books,” says Albert Greco, a Fordham University professor and publishing industry analyst.

Yet, how many is too many. “We’re publishing 175,000 books for a U.S. population of close to 300 million,” Andrew Grabois, a senior executive at R.R. Bowker, the firm that issues ISBN numbers in the United States, said in the reporters’ article. “In the United Kingdom, they’re publishing 125,000 books for a population of only 60 million. It’s hard to know what the American market can absorb, but we’re still lagging behind the British.”