June 1, 2005 (Raleigh, N.C.) — The number of Americans who write and publish a book in a given year is set to exceed the number who read one, according to a startling projection of book industry trends, made by Lulu (www.lulu.com), the world's fastest growing provider of print-on-demand books.
The Lulu study pinpoints 2052 as the year when “Authorgeddon” will arrive — and the number of new books published in America will first surpass the number of Americans who read even a single book each year.
“It may sound ridiculous,” concedes Bob Young, CEO of Lulu, “but the latest industry figures show yet another steep rise in the number of Americans publishing a book each year, alongside a continuing fall in the numbers reading them. All we've done is to extrapolate these two, well-documented trends.”
The Lulu findings come as the country's book industry gathers in New York for BookExpo America (June 2-5), the trade's largest annual get-together.
They also follow last week's announcement by R.R. Bowker, North America's leading source of bibliographic data, that the number of books published in America last year hit a record 195,000 — a 14% increase on the previous high of nearly 175,000, recorded the year earlier. The average annual rise over the last three years has been 14.6%.
The Bowker announcement itself follows a survey published last year by the National Endowment for the Arts, which showed that the percentage of Americans who read books has steadily declined over the last 20 years. Only 57% — 164 million Americans — of the U.S. population now read even one book a year; a drop of 4% in a decade.
A simple extrapolation of current trends shows that by the year 2052 148.4 million books will be published in the U.S., while just 129.4 million Americans will actually read a book. 19 million new books, in other words, will not find a single reader, presumably including their authors.
The human race as a whole now publishes a book every thirty seconds, according to one recent estimate. Some 100 books a day — over 30,000 a year — are published on Lulu alone, of which most are not even counted in Bowker's figures.
“Fancy publishers may soon have to start signing up readers rather than authors,” suggests Young. “And the star readers will be those able to read the most books in a year.”
Well, no... “What these figures really show,” says Young, “is that the publishing industry as we know it is unraveling — like the music industry before it — as new, more efficient ways of publishing, involving print-on-demand and internet distribution, emerge in its place.”
“What publishing is seeing is the growth of a vast new diversity of niche markets, no longer dominated by a handful of voices approved by the publishing elite.”
In short, says Young, a publishing revolution is taking place, with Lulu and others at its head. Viva La Revo-lulu-ción!
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About Lulu (www.lulu.com): Lulu is the world's fastest growing source of print-on-demand books – and a way for authors of all kinds to publish and sell their books. Founded by Bob Young, who previously co-founded Red Hat, the open source software company, Lulu provides independent publishers with free access to on-demand publishing tools for books, e-books, music, images and calendars.