The NPR story looks at returns and other facets of the book business. One idea I hadn’t heard before but makes sense: book stores are not competing against each other, but against the Internet. They order more copies than they will sell so that they can be sure they will have a copy in stock if someone comes in – rather than lose the sale to Amazon.
At the same time as readership is declining or barely holding on, there are more and more books. Last year, there were 1% more “traditional” 276,649 new titles. But RR Bowker reports that the output of on-demand, short run and unclassified titles exploded from 21,936 in 2006 to 134,773 last year. This segment includes some traditional books printed by mainstream publishers using print-on-demand technology, public domain titles published through POD as well as titles from self publishers and very small independent press that use POD.
I wonder how much of this is begat by the likes of Publish America and I-Universe.