Publishing trends: What’s happening now
Like every other business sector, the book world has been tremendously affected by the defining developments of the last two years: the international pandemic and rapid changes in technology. Books and the ways we read them will never be the same.
The printed word has moved civilization forward since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1436. Although much of the global population was illiterate in the 15th century and Gutenberg died penniless, historians say that the printing press pulled Europe out of the plague-ridden Dark Ages and opened the door to the Renaissance of ideas and commerce.
What changes are we seeing today, based on the pandemic and technology? Here’s a brief forecast:
- Reading is back. In the early days of Covid-19 isolation, people turned to watching television, connecting with people by phone and videoconferencing, and reading books – lots of books in all genres. Bookshops and libraries may have been closed for most of 2020, but readers bought over 200 million print books that year, more than any preceding year going back to 2012. Studies show that some people doubled their previous reading rates during 2020 and 2021.
- Audiobook sales continue to grow. People love listening to narrators – and often even authors – read to them. Audiobooks are the multi-tasker’s dream with their availability across tech platforms. Books entertain us over car speakers while we drive, our phone and earbuds while we exercise, and Bluetooth speakers while we work around our homes. Buyers turn to a growing number of sources for their books on tape, including Amazon, which offers 200,000 audiobooks via Audible.
- E-book sales add to writers’ revenues. In yet another example of the impact of the pandemic and technology growth, in 2020, e-book downloads from libraries increased more than 50% over 2019, a year with over 325 million downloads from libraries. The popularity of library e-books created long waiting lists on free library book downloads – a consequence that drove even more paid book downloads on Kindles and other personal devices for instant reading pleasure.
- Self-publishing continues to grow. Thanks to unprecedented flexibility in print volume pricing and new technology for doing business remotely, self-publishing represents a huge growth sector for the industry.
The bottom line is that technology will continue to offer competitive advantages for authors and publishers. Print books remain the most popular format, but audiobooks and e-books will represent an increasingly larger share of publishing revenue.
Experts see a number of other trends playing a role in the industry:
- Greater diversity of authors on many levels: ethnic background, gender orientation, religion, age, and more
- A return to increased loyalty to independent bookstores, in spite of their traditional retail pricing and smaller inventories compared to online sites.
- Continued popularity of series with same characters, particularly for mysteries
- Continued interest for political books, by and about political leaders
- Increasing demand for good creative nonfiction, including coverage of environmental issues and true-crime stories.
There is a flip side to today’s growing market for books. More books and more authors mean more choices for readers, but also much more competition for sales. With fewer sales per title, authors and publishers make less revenue for their books.
Most authors never sell more than a few hundred — or a few dozen books, certainly not enough to come close to covering the costs of professional publishing or the hours they spent writing. Publishing is not the road to riches. However, many writers report that becoming a published author brings a sense of accomplishment unlike any other achievement in their lives.
In spite of doomsayers forecasting the demise of books, the industry is actually doing well against the distractions of online entertainment and binge watching on television. We are definitely bullish on books!
Dudley Court Press
Dudley Court Press works with writers like you every day. As a contemporary publishing company, we help thoughtful people write and publish books for all sorts of reasons. For more information about our Developmental Editing, Coaching, Consulting and Professional Self-Publishing options, please reach us at +1-520-329-2729 or Info@DudleyCourtPress.com.
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