In the last 60 years, the book industry--from how readers acquire books to how success in publishing is judged--has radically changed. According to "Publishers Weekly," the number of American publishers ballooned from 357 in 1947 to 3,000 in 1973 to 85,000 in 2008. In the early part of the 20th century, U.S. book publishing was organised by independently wealthy publishers and editors who were interested in publishing works of high literary quality, with minimal profits. Since the 1980s, corporations have bought up book publishers, bringing in more money but changing expectations.
Along with the use of new media such as blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages, most book publishers have stopped taking "unagented" submissions, so the role of literary agents has become more important. Some publishers have started Wiki-projects for books, so that fans can make digital notes to the book.
Consolidation and Corporate Publishing
In the early 1960s, a number of book publishers consolidated. Knopf was purchased by and became an imprint of Random House, which was purchased by the RCA Corporation. As a benefit of this corporate association, new financial resources were introduced into publishing. However, those resources were coupled with expectations for greater profits. By the 1990s publishers were gambling big, offering huge advances on unproven novelists.
Chris Anderson, in his book “The Long Tail,” described how the Internet offers book buyers advantages over traditional book stores. Web sellers, including Amazon, can sell fewer books while carrying a greater selection and remain viable. With the increasing popularity of mobile devices, Internet book sales are on the rise. According to the "Wall Street Journal," Amazon has a unique opportunity to monopolise book sales on the iPad, as well as the Kindle.
Book Publishing Numbers
In 2008, the Book Industry Study Group found that industry revenue was underestimated by over £9 million. The report “Under the Radar” suggested one of the reasons for the incorrect estimates is that retailers do not report their book sales numbers to publishers accurately.
Boris Kachka in “The End,” says the long-term future of book publishing does not seem promising. Kachka details how Internet publishing and stagnant sales have led to a crisis in book publishing. Though novels like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Twilight” gain large readerships, book sales have steadily dropped since the late 1990s.
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