Book Statistics

Hi, my name is Rich and I'm a bookoholic.

Hi Rich!

I recently came across some fascinating book and publishing statistics from ParaPublishing.com. There is a lot of scary information on that web page.

What's pretty clear (and probably no surprise to anyone reading this), is that your average American is becoming more and more illiterate.

Here's a small sample of statistics that caught my eye:

  • 2000: 80% of the book sales are controlled by five conglomerates: Bertlesman (Random House), Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, Time Warner, Disney and Viacom/CBS.

  • A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies. A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.

  • 2002: Books sales totaled roughly $26.9 billion.

  • Book Purchases by Store Type:
    • 24.6% Large chain stores
    • 17.7% Book Clubs
    • 15.2% Smaller chains and independent stores.
    • 5.4% Internet such as Amazon.com

  • Who is Reading Books (and who is not)

    One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. Many do not even graduate from high school.

    • 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
    • 42% of college graduates never read another book.
    • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
    • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
    • 57% of new books are not read to completion.

  • Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.

  • Customers 55 and older account for more than one-third of all books bought.

  • "Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half have never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half."
    --Gore Vidal, author.

People like me who buy several books a month and typically visit a bookstore every week are also adversely influencing some of these statistics.

It sure would be nice to see similar figures for 2005. I bet the number of independent booksellers has dramatically decreased and the sale of books over the Internet dramatically increased since the figures given.

I also found the marked change in the quality of the books on the best sellers list worrying. Back between 1900 and 1960 a lot of the books that made the top of the fiction list can be considered literature. In the 1990's the likes of Danielle Steel and Tom Clancy dominate the list. The Harry Potter books have helped change this a bit over the last few years.

Perhaps the next generation of kids won't need the ability to read so much. Perhaps speech recognition and synthesis will be the way to go. For an old bloke like me, the thought of this is scary. So much of our past is going to be lost or forgotten or indecipherable to them.

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