There's a common belief on writing newgroups that the traditional print industry is in freefall, soon to be tossed into the scrapheap of history and replaced by ebooks or no books at all. This is, not surprisingly, the stance taken by many ebook authors and publishers. While I have nothing against ebooks, a good book is a good book regardless of format, these folks are fooling themselves.
Here are a couple of cold, hard facts: according to the Association of American Publishers, net sales for 2007 were $25 billion, up 3.2% from 2006. Not a bad showing for a recession year (and yes, we are in a global recession, there's another cold, hard fact for you).
Not only that, but the New York Times reported that in 2007 there were an astonishing 400,000 books published in the United States alone. Many of these are self-published books that hardly sell any copies, others are reprints of older works, but a great deal of them are new titles by reputable publishers. The development of affordable print-on-demand technology has led to a boom in small presses, and university presses are thriving too.
Ebooks are doing well, with a net profit of $67 million, a growth of 24% over the previous year. But looking at that as part of the total of all book sales they constitute less than one third of one percent. There are a lot of smaller epublishers out there that aren't counted in the statistics, but even if the figures are off by a factor of ten, which they're not, I don't think print publishers have anything to worry about.
So it seems that while Americans are reading less, dedicated readers are actually reading more. That's the only way I can account for these figures. Traditional publishers are doing OK, although with conglomeration, restructuring, and the gutting of midlists, the industry is in a state of flux, but I have a feeling it's always been in a state of flux. Long live the traditional print book!