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The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in…

The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century (Stanford…

by Albert Greco

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These Fordham professors may know more than anyone about the book publishing business when it comes to quantitative measures. That's not saying much, since there isn't a whole lot of shared knowledge about this industry, a point they make more than once (particularly in terms of market research, which the industry ignores almost totally). At times, it reads as excitingly as reading tables in the Bowker Annual, but it's good to have a current and thorough overview of the industry, even if a bit on the dry side. Included are historical economic data, information about different publishing sectors, and (particularly interesting to me) information from people in the business. (I'm a qualitative kinda gal, I guess.) Some interesting stuff: a BISG panel study gives the primary reason adults choose a particular book was cover art and book reviews; teens rely more on recommendations from people they know. Children's books are more likely impulse purchases than other kinds of books. Popular fiction is the most common type of book bought (57.3%). When people in the business were asked what issues concern them, consolidation was number one - it drives out smaller presses and choice and makes the business more bottom-line oriented. Other peculiar data points suggest looking at the bottom line might not be a bad idea: 2005 Bookscan data shows that in the first year of publication, 79% of new ISBNs had sales of fewer than 99 copies (!! - 212) Between 1995 and 2004 adult trade harbound books were returned at a rate of 33% with mass market paperbacks in the mid 40% range. Seven out of 10 new frontlist books in 2005 failed to earn any profit (215). Yet, in the US, an average of 22.2 new books are published every hour (214). And yet the publishers don't think market research is necessary because they know what readers want.

There's a lot of information here, and it's more affordable than the annual Book Industry Trends publication that is too pricey for most libraries, let alone curious individuals. Too bad there isn't more institutional curiosity in the book business, since the trends do not look particularly promising, especially if we are tottering on a recession.
  bfister | Jan 7, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804750319, Hardcover)

Is publishing a cultural or commercial endeavor? Drawing on extensive data sets and applying the theoretical tools of both sociology and economics, The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century is the definitive social and economic analysis of the current state and future trends of the industry. This book examines the substantive issues, challenges, and problems confronting the diverse, and in many ways fragile, book publishing industry in the United States. The authors specifically emphasize the consumer, college textbook, and scholarly publishing components of the U.S. book publishing industry as they analyze the cultural and economic structure of the book publishing industry in the twenty-first century.

The book begins by charting the changes in the book publishing industry between 1945 and 2005, then goes on to examine industry specifics, strategies being employed for domestic and global competitiveness, and the economics of publishing and the impact of technology. Through in-person interviews and a broad sampling of people from every sector of the industry it examine the demographic trends in play. The temperature of the current publishing culture is presented in a chapter titled "I'm Glad I'm Not An Author . . ." The book ends by looking forward, highlighting the trends likely to impact the growth of the industry in the future.

Throughout the book, the tables provided track the industry from 1945 until 2005, and give the reader a snapshot of the data year-by-year, and category by category: bestsellers, average book prices, U.S. bookstore sales, average sales by category, and the demographic breakdown of readers. It also provides forecasts for the coming years, both units and revenues, for 2005-2009. The thoughtful analysis presented in this book will be valuable to leaders in publishing as well as the scholars and analysts who study this industry.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:25 -0400)

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