Publishing Industry

views updated May 11 2018


In the broadest sense, the publishing industry would include newspaper publishing, magazine publishing, music publishing, map publishing, government information publishing, comic book publishing, and book publishing. This entry, however, will be restricted to the modern book publishing industry.

Publishing may be defined as the commercial dissemination of literature or information in multiple copies and with the probability of multiple formats (e.g., paper, electronic, CD-ROM, microfilm, microfiche). Publishing is a business, and as such, it embraces the values of competition, sales, and profit. Publishers are as concerned with accounting, marketing and advertising, shipping and distribution, and inventory control as they are with their products—the intellectual, artistic, and cultural creations of the authors. The publishing business often operates under the tension of highly divergent interests. An author's creative works or specialized knowledge may not meet the market values of profit, popularity, and standardization.

Publishing requires authors to create content. Editors work with authors to improve the writing. Scouts look for authors who have stories that may be profitable for the publisher. Literary agents work with authors to represent and protect the interests of the authors. Lawyers work with both the author and the publisher to finalize contracts. A publishing house usually divides its operation into editorial, design, production, publicity, sales, distribution, contracts, rights (e.g., translation, foreign republishing, licensing), and administration. Publishers must also work with printers who create the multiple copies or printings of a work, information processors who make works available electronically, distributors who pack and ship the finished product, and consumers (e.g., booksellers, libraries, school systems) who buy the content to resell at a profit or lend as a service.

While publishing is a complex combination of commerce and culture, it is much more multifaceted than that. It involves controversy (such as censorship, whether for political or propriety reasons), ethical considerations (related to authenticity, libel, plagiarism, and copyright), value considerations (with regard to taste, propriety, and aesthetics), international issues (including translations, politics, diplomacy, and markets), social conditions (related to literacy and education), and philosophical concerns (over authorship, com-modification, and commercialization). All of these are key factors in the publishing industry.

As for the physical product of the publishing industry, all books can be divided into the following categories: (1) trade books, which include both hardback and paperback publications that are available in easily accessible retail outlets, (2) religious works such as devotionals, scriptures, and prayers, (3) textbooks for students ranging from kindergarten through graduate or professional school, and (4) scientific, technical, and medical books. Trade books, which can obviously be divided into paperback publications and hard-back publications, can be further divided according to the age of the intended reader and the specific content. Adult books are generally intended for readers who are nineteen years of age or older. Juvenile books, which are intended for those individuals who are younger than nineteen years of age, can be further divided into books for young adults and books for children. The broad content genres for trade books are non-fiction, fiction, drama, and poetry, but these can each be divided into more specific sub-genres. For example, fiction can be divided into romance, mystery, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, adventure, military, historical, horror, and thriller, as well as the emerging areas of splatterpunk, cyberpunk, and prehistoric epics. Within each of these sub-genres, there are also niches that satisfy specific audiences and interests, such as African-American romance, urban fantasy, glitz and glamour romance, and technothrillers.

Literacy, Education, and Libraries

Publishing depends on both writers and readers. People read books for many different purposes. Those readers who purchase or borrow a book for voluntarily reading may be looking for recreation or inspiration. Those readers who purchase or borrow a book because it is required reading are looking for specific information. Publishing is intricately tied to literacy, education, cultural institutions such as libraries and museums, and societal respect and support for education and an educated populace. Authors need safe environments for free expression; they need time to think, write, read, and revise. The social conditions of peace, stability, and security are helpful for a healthy publishing environment, but war, instability, and insecurity can sometimes create an environment that encourages an active authorship and readership. Access to literature through a free public library system can create a large reading public and a guaranteed outlet for selling certain publications. Although public libraries are often thought of as a triumph of democracy, communist countries have also been supportive of libraries. Vladimir Lenin and his wife were strong supporters of libraries, and Cuba, with its high literacy rate, has an official government library system as well as, since 1998, a system of "independent" libraries (which are not part of the official government system).

Literacy, education, and the right to opinion and expression are essential for human dignity. In fact, the United Nations, in its Universal Declarationof Human Rights (1948) states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers" (Article 19). "Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit"(Article 26). "Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author" (Article 27). Many nations have their own statements on the freedom to read, write, and disseminate information and knowledge. These political and social structures are important to the publishing industry.

Authors, Writers, and the Publishing Process

The term "author" can refer to many different situations in the publishing industry. An author can be a commodity, a name brand that sells titles to an eager readership, an individual or a succession of creators who contribute to a series. An author may be a ghostwriter—someone who writes for another person. In many cases, a pseudonym is an assigned name under which many different authors may write—for example, the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which was created by Edward Stratemeyer, chose a pseudonym for each of its series, including the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, but multiple authors contributed to each series. An author may be a professional who makes his or her living by writing and may be under contract to one publishing house. An author may be an amateur who is defined by some other circumstance or occupation, such as a prisoner, student, teacher, policeman, doctor, lawyer, or housewife.

The relationship between a publisher and an author is defined by a contract, which generally stipulates what the content of the manuscript will be, how and when it will be submitted, who is responsible for proofreading, and what amount the author will be paid—in initial payments and in royalties. (Royalties are additional payments that are made to an author for each copy of the work that is sold.)

The publication process follows a standard sequence that is often modified according to the type of book that is being produced. The basic stages are as follows:

  1. An author writes, revises (as many times as necessary), and then submits a manuscript to a publisher. This submission can be unsolicited (i.e., submitted directly to the publisher by the author) or solicited (i.e., submitted through a literary agent), but it should be noted that many publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
  2. If a publisher agrees to consider a manuscript, it is then assigned to an editor for review.
  3. The editor reads the manuscript and makes a recommendation to the publisher about publishing or not publishing the work. If the manuscript is essentially publishable, the editor and author work together to develop a contract and to polish the manuscript before sending it to the compositor.
  4. The book is copyrighted and assigned an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
  5. While the manuscript is being polished, a designer develops specifications for an interior design and creates a cover that is appropriate to the manuscript and will attract the attention of potential readers.
  6. A compositor typesets the polished manuscript according to the specifications that have been created by the designer and provides pages for proofreading, correction, and approval.
  7. While the manuscript is being typeset by the compositor, the marketing department develops strategies to create interest in the book. Prepublication information is sent to bookstores and libraries to entice them to order the book. Advance copies are sent to reviewers so that information about the book—what it is about and how good it is— can appear in newspapers, magazines, and over the Internet around the time the book is actually published.
  8. While the marketing department is busy creating interest in the book, the approved typeset materials created by the compositor are sent to the printer/binder, who produces multiple copies of the work and prepares them for shipment.
  9. An author tour is arranged where the author participates in radio and television interviews and reads portions of the book at bookstores, libraries, and cultural centers.
  10. Sales representatives attend book fairs and trade shows and visit bookstores and other retail outlets to sell the book.

Publishing Houses

Historically, publishing houses were relatively small family-owned businesses, but they have evolved into multinational corporations, many of which are publicly traded on the various stock exchanges (e.g., Elsevier is listed on the Amsterdam, London, and New York Stock Exchanges). Some houses are subsidiaries of corporations that are centered on the entertainment industry. Other houses are minor subsidiaries of corporations that have little else to do with literature and publishing. The effects of corporate mergers and acquisitions are shaping the modern book industry in ways that are yet to be determined.

Some of the major houses in the history of publishing include Elsevier, Macmillan, Longman, Charles Scribner's Sons, and Harry N. Abrams. Elsevier, which was founded in 1583 by the Dutch family Elzevir (or Elsevier), is a publisher of scientific literature. It is often cited as the first important European publishing house. The Elzevirs were businessmen, and their business of printing and selling books grew as literacy increased across Europe. Macmillan was founded in 1843 by Daniel and Alexander Macmillan. These Scottish booksellers and publishers created one of the largest and most influential publishing houses of textbooks and works of literature and science. Long-man was founded in 1724 by Thomas Longman when he bought a British bookshop and publisher. It is an imprint known for its textbooks and important monographs in the social sciences and humanities. Charles Scribner's Sons, one of the first important American publishing houses, was founded in 1846. It is notable for its legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, who assisted F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and many other giants of twentieth-century U.S. literature.Harry N. Abrams, an American publisher of art books, was founded in 1950.

These historic publishing houses, which represent just a small portion of the publishing houses worldwide, have not been immune to the corporate practices of buying, selling, and merging of companies and imprints. Longman is now a subsidiary of the publishing house Addison-Wesley, Longman. The Macmillan company operating in the United Kingdom has no connection to the Macmillan companies in the United States, and even the Macmillan companies operating in the United States are not all owned by the same corporation. In addition, Scribner reference books are no longer published by the same corporation that publishes Scribner trade books. New names that have grown in importance in the publishing world are Bertels-mann, Viacom, Time Warner, and Disney. Bertelsmann is a German publisher that has purchased American publishers such as Doubleday, Dell, and Random House. Viacom, a global mega-corporation with entertainment interests in film, video, television, amusement parks, and sports teams, purchased American publisher Simon & Schuster in 1994 and subsequently sold off several of its imprints. Time Warner is a corporation that publishes books, operates book clubs, and owns large segments of the communication and entertainment industry. With the announcement of its merger with America Online, the synergy of publishing (production and distribution of cultural content) with electronic multimedia points to the future of the dissemination of information, ideas, knowledge, and art. Critics are concerned that these types of mergers and acquisitions will lead to the "corporatization" of culture. The prominence of the Disney Corporation, which owns movie studios, operates theme parks, and licenses characters that were not created originally by Disney (e.g., Winnie-the-Pooh, Pinocchio), has critics asking the question "Can companies own culture and thus control it?" With the foreign acquisition of publishing houses, those who study the publishing industry also ask if there are dangers in having foreign ownership of a nation's information outlets. For example, does it matter if Germany publishes American textbooks? Will content and editorial changes occur that may not be in the national interest of those people who are purchasing the books? Or will it make no difference to have foreign ownership of publishing houses?

University presses were initially created to publish the specialized works written by the faculty members of the respective universities. The presses later developed into publishers of scholarly works that were not restricted to those written by an institution's own faculty and students. Traditionally, university presses have not been expected to make a profit, but rising costs, diminishing resources, and shifting values regarding education and profitability are pressuring university presses to print books that have a wider popular appeal. For example, in 1999, Northeastern University Press published a new edition of Peyton Place, a popular 1956 novel about New England life. In other cases, university presses have been sold to commercial publishers. In July 2000, Iowa State University agreed to merge Iowa State University Press (founded in 1934) with Blackwell Science, an international scientific and technical publishing company. Some important university presses include Oxford University Press (founded in England in 1478), Harvard University Press (officially created in 1913, but Harvard has published faculty materials since the seventeenth century), and University of Chicago Press (established in 1891). The last press is also the home of the definitive work in manuscript preparation: The Chicago Manual of Style.

Vanity Presses are publishing houses that publish books at the authors' expense. Often considered unscrupulous, vanity presses rely on the authors wanting so strongly to see their works in print that they will pay all of the expenses of having the books published. However, book distributors, bookstores, and libraries generally do not purchase books printed by vanity presses, and reviewers do not accept them to review for journals, newspapers, and magazines. Therefore, although it is published, there is very little recognition of the work. Electronic self-publishing on the Internet is modifying how some authors get into print. Similar to the vanity presses, websites that allow for self-publishing are changing the avenues for new voices to be heard and read, but unlike vanity presses, websites are somehow not yet tainted with the association of narcissism. Other forms of electronic publishing mimic the traditional format of the publishing process with the exception that the author publishes the work online first and then has it picked up by a major publishing house. Websites that allow for authors and publishers to negotiate rights in an auction format are part of electronic publishing.

Publisher Associations

Publishers have organized international, national, and regional associations to protect their interests. They also collect statistics and follow trends in the field regarding technology, commerce, trade, taste, and new markets.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) was established in Paris in 1896 to serve as a worldwide organization of the individual national associations, which are recognized as representative of the book and music publishers in each country. The office of the secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The IPA has a statement on the "Freedom to Publish," collects and maintains statistics on publishing as reported by member nations, and celebrates "World Book and Copyright Day" every year on April 23.

The national book publishers associations include the Association of American Publishers, the Bulgarian Bookpublishers Association, the Canadian Publishers Council, the Den Danske Forläggerforening (Denmark), the Cámara Ecuatoriana del Libro (Ecuador), the Egyptian Publishers' Association, the Syndicat National de l'Edition (France), the Ghana Book Publishers Association, the Icelandic Publishers Association, the Federation of Indian Publishers (India), the Ikatan Penerbit (Indonesia), the Book Publishers Association of Israel, the Japan Book Publishers, the Fédération Luxembourgeoise (Luxembourg), the Malaysian Book Publishers' Association, the Cámara Nacional de la Industria Editorial (Mexico), the Nigerian Publishers Association, and the Philippine Educational Publishers' Association.

Book Fairs

Publishers, authors, agents, and scouts attend international, national, and regional book fairs. They show their wares, attract new clients (e.g., authors, translators, booksellers, book buyers), discuss trends, buy rights to works (e.g., foreign rights to publish or distribute a book in a country other than the original country of publication), make licensing agreements, and attend meetings, seminars, and training programs. Regional book fairs, such as those held in Frankfurt, Guadalajara, and Zimbabwe, are important for highlighting the works published in various countries. Given the large number of countries in the world, international and regional book fairs are important to the publishing industry. Some the most important fairs include the Frankfurt Book Fair, Book Expo America, the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the Guadalajara International Book Fair, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair, the New Delhi World Book Fair, the Asia International Book Fair, the London Book Fair, and the Havana International Book Fair.

The Frankfurt Book Fair was established in 1949 in Frankfurt, Germany. This annual six-day event, organized by Ausstellungs und Messe GmbH (a subsidiary company of the German Publishers' and Booksellers' Association), is the world's biggest international trade fair for publishing. This is an important event for publishers to attend if they wish to obtain information about the international publishing industry.

BookExpo America, formerly known as the American Booksellers Association Convention & Trade Exhibit, is another one of the largest fairs in the world. Usually held in Chicago, this event showcases books in all formats (e.g., paper, audio, comic books), presents new technology and services for publishers, and shows sideline merchandise such as greeting cards, calendars, stickers, and other non-book products for bookstores. It is an education forum that looks at the business of books from many viewpoints.

The Bologna Children's Book Fair, which has been held in Italy since 1963, is uniquely devoted to children's publishing. Organized by the Bologna Fiere Group, this fair includes textbooks and reference works as well as picture books and works that feature licensed characters. Exhibited works exist in a variety of formats, including paper, electronic, and multimedia.

The Guadalajara International Book Fair was founded in 1987. Organized by the University of Guadalajara, it is one of the most important book fairs for Latin American and Spanish-language materials. Its goals are to promote and consolidate the Mexican and Latin American publishing industry and to contribute toward encouraging reading among children and young adults.

The Zimbabwe International Book Fair is the most important annual book event in Africa. Administered by an independent trust (comprising a broad cross-section of Zimbabwe's book industry) and attended by some of the major writers of the continent, this fair provides the opportunity for the free interchange of ideas and expression between those people living in North Africa and those living in sub-Saharan Africa—as well as between Africa and the rest of the world.

Organized by the National Book Trust at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, the New Delhi World Book Fair occurs every other year. The fair highlights India's eleven thousand publishers, the multilingual publishing industry of India, and its world presence as the third largest publisher of English-language books.

Held in Singapore and organized by the Reed Exhibition Companies, the Asia International Book Fair is a trade event that serves the growing intellectual property rights market in Asia. It is a unique marketplace for the buying and selling of rights for publishing, reprinting, distribution, translation, and co-edition of books in print or electronic format.

The London Book Fair was established in 1970 and targets a wide variety of publishers, booksellers, and printing services. It also features a variety of non-book products that are of interest to readers and book buyers.

Since 1990, the Havana International Book Fair has highlighted the literary achievements and strengths of Cuba. Although the United States has a trade embargo with Cuba, some of the larger U.S. publishers participate in the event regularly.

Book Festivals and Awards

Many cities celebrate books and reading by organizing festivals. Often these festivals account for a high percentage of a book's overall sales. For example, in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that 50 percent of all children's book sales are made through book festivals or school book clubs. Some festivals concentrate on local or regional authors or on authors who have a connection to the state, province, or city. Cities may hold many book festivals in the course of a year. Some examples of book festivals held in the United States include the Harlem Book Fair (New York City), the San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival, the Great Basin Book Festival (Nevada), Bumbershoot (Seattle), the Texas Book Festival, the Virginia Festival of the Book, and the New York is Book Country Festival (New York City).

Book fairs and festivals are not the only ways to recognize outstanding works. Publishers, professional associations, and governments honor authors by presenting awards for books of unusual merit. Often, awards are presented for works that are published in specific categories. For example, the National Book Awards given in the United States bestow honors in the areas of fiction; poetry; arts and letters; history and biography; and science, philosophy, and religion. These awards are important to both publisher and author because the honor raises their profile, attracts attention, and generates interest in reading and the exchange of ideas. Some of the other important book prizes and awards include the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Pulitzer Prize in Letters, the Caldecott Medal, the Newbery Medal, the Booker Prize, the Prix de Goncourt, and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards.

Censorship, Banning, and Embargo

Because publishing is the human communication of ideas, desires, information, and knowledge, publishers often face attempts to stop their dissemination of literature. The reasons may be political (e.g., if a ruling government wants to suppress publication of specific ideas), or the reasons may involve personal tastes (e.g., if a person or group believes that a publication contains obscene material).

Publishers vehemently protect the right to free expression and often provide support when a specific publisher's rights are being infringed. For example, in the United States, a joint legal defense fund was launched by what some may consider to be unlikely allies: the American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, Playboy Enterprises, and Penthouse International. These four entities came together in response to the 1985 Meese Commission, which sent letters to convenience stores saying that if they sold the Playboy and Penthouse magazines, then the commission would identify them as stores that sold "pornography." In this case, a Federal District Court ruled that the commission had overstepped its authority.

Sometimes publishers come up against national laws and international access. Adolf Hilter's Mein Kampf cannot be sold in Germany, but it can be (and is) published and sold in the United States. When, a U.S.-based online bookstore, was filling orders that German customers had placed for Mein Kampf, German officials objected and cited German laws for banning sales of hate literature. As a result, in 1999, stopped selling Mein Kampf to German customers. In 1989, the American Association of Publishers published The Starvation of Young Black Minds: The Effects of Book Boycotts in South Africa in an attempt to have books excluded from the economic embargo against South Africa under apartheid. The publication did not have the desired effect, and books remained part of the sanctions while they were in effect.

The notions of taste and what is acceptable are not universal. What may be acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable in another. In 1978, a Swedish sex education book for children was deemed obscene in the United States because of graphic nudity. Some governments, such as the Canadian government, subsidize cultural production, which is a practice that is praised by some and criticized by others as a form of government interference. All countries have unique characteristics, customs, and philosophies that shape their respective publishing industries. In spite of those unique elements that are related to specific countries, it is clear that all publishers still struggle with the concepts of free expression, social responsibility, cultural taste and propriety, and intellectual freedom.

International Publishing

While figures for new titles published in the United States generally fall between 55,000 and 75,000 books per year and the Publishers Association of the United Kingdom indicates that British publishers produced more than 100,000 new titles in 1997, these are not the only two countries in the world that have a publishing industry. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has reported that, for example, Egypt produced 2,215 new titles in 1996, while Iran produced 15,073 new titles, Israel produced 30,487 new titles, Japan produced 56,221 new titles, Argentina produced 9,850 new titles, and Peru produced 612 new titles. Specific international cities that are known for their strong publishing houses and communication industry include—in addition to the American cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago—the cities of Buenos Aires, Toronto, London, Paris, Vienna, Florence, Milan, Zurich, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Singapore, and Tokyo.

The global exchange of ideas and literature, however, is complicated by inequalities between developed and developing nations. Access to raw materials (e.g., paper, ink, glue) and technology, opportunities for authors to write, currency exchanges, diplomacy, politics, war, tariffs, taxes, and distribution systems (e.g., postal services, roads, shipping) are all key factors that can vary from country to country. Consider the variations that exist in Africa, Central Europe, Latin America, Asia, and North America.

The publishing of African authors by African publishers has continually grown since the 1960s. With the emergence of independent African nations after World War II, national pride and postcolonial scholarship fueled the publishing industry. However, challenges such as economic recessions, chronic foreign exchange constraints, war, famine, drought, and political unrest have impeded the development of a robust publishing industry for the African continent. In 1989, a group of African publishers organized to found the African Books Collective, a self-help initiative that was established to promote, sell, and distribute African books in European and North American markets and to promote an intra-African book trade. The African Books Collective is registered in the United Kingdom, and books are shipped from its United Kingdom warehouse. The Swedish International Development Authority supports the African Books Collective website, which helps librarians, educators, and general readers find African books to buy. African publishing still reflects colonial influences, so the industry may generally be divided into Francophone (French-speaking), Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking), and English-speaking markets, in addition to the markets for the native languages and dialects of the many African nations.

With the break up of the former Soviet Union, Central European nations (e.g., Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania) moved from communism and state-owned publishing companies to free market economies and a new horizon for publishing. Challenges in Central Europe include foreign exchange rates, political changes, attempts to nurture local authors and increase interest in a nation's classic literature, and the need to balance the new influx of Western European and North American literature with indigenous literature so the culture is not homogenized. Still, there is a concerted effort to build the infrastructure of technology, expertise, and distribution and to re-create the publishing industry in the Central European nations.

Latin American nations are producers and consumers of Spanish-language and Portuguese-language works. Many of the region's nations have strong educational systems with fine universities that produce high-quality scholarship. Recognition of the importance of the translation process has allowed many Latin America authors and poets to reach readers in other countries around the world. More similar to Africa, or perhaps Central Europe, than to North America in terms of robustness of the Latin American publishing industry, the main Latin American book producers and exporters are Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, and Brazil.

Asia, the world's largest continent, also features a large diversity in its publishing industries. Japan, with its high literacy rate and excellent educational system, has a strong publishing industry that is characterized by quality content and some of the highest standards for the physical aspects of publishing (e.g., paper, ink, binding, and color quality). China, on the other hand, has a long and strong book tradition, but a climate of suppression and government control stifles publishing and the import and export of cultural materials. Singapore, with its cosmopolitan population and British ties, has poised itself to be part of progressive Eastern-Western publishing activities. Western publishers and Australia look to Asia as a profitable marketplace. India, the third largest publisher of English-language works is a major player in Asian publishing and in worldwide publishing.

In North America, there is a shared popular culture, there is a shared language (i.e., English, although French and Spanish each have a strong presence as well), and there is a free trade agreement among Canada, the United States, and Mexico (although Mexico is culturally and linguistically more aligned with Latin American publishing). The face of publishing in the United States is changing. Entertainment industries (e.g., film, television, music, radio) are merging with the publishing industry. Many U.S. publishing interests are being purchased by European or Australian interests. Small publishing houses are becoming minor parts of large corporations. The context of publishing in the United States is one of free expression, regionalism, and corporate synergy. Also influencing publishing in the United States is an increase in the Spanish-speaking population and the need to create and provide materials in Spanish. Canada publishes in two languages (English and French) and supports the idea of multilingualism. Canadian publishing exists in an expansive country with a sparse population. There too is strong regionalism, which affects taste, content, and distribution. Canada's proximity to the United States and strong ties to the United Kingdom also affect what is imported, sold, and read. The Canadian marketplace is dominated by foreign products, but these connections also allow Canadian artists and scholars to have their works distributed throughout the world.

The Future in Publishing

In developed nations, time for reading books as a source for information, education, and recreation competes with television, the Internet, computer games, videos, music, and radio. In response, publishing has broadened its base and views the book as just one component of the cultural and educational whole. Multimedia productions of computer software, CD-ROMs, and maps are changing the definitions of publications, as is the development of e-books. The publishing industry is embracing the change.

Developing nations, however, continue to struggle to acquire the raw materials and technology that they need to produce works. They also face obstacles from developed nations that may resist purchasing the published works because they consider the printing to be inferior or because they question the intellectual value of the work.

Despite the inherent complications involved in the publishing industry around the world, as long as the fundamental human urge to communicate remains, publication of the expressions and findings of human endeavor will continue.

See also:Editors; Intellecutal Freedom and Censorship; Libraries, Functions and Types of; Magazine Industry; Newspaper Industry; Pornography; Pornography, Legal Aspects of; Printing, History and Methods of; Publishing Industry, Careers in; Storytelling; Writers.


Council of National Library Associations and R. R.Bowker Company. (annual). Bowker Annual of Library & Book Trade Information. New York: R. R. Bowker.

Greco, Albert N. (1997). The Book Publishing Industry.Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Johnson, Deidre. (1982). Stratemeyer Pseudonyms and Series Books. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Kobrak, Fred, and Luey, Beth. (1992). The Structure of International Publishing in the 1990s. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Korda, Michael. (1999). Another Life. New York: Random House.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. (1996). Statistical Yearbook. Paris: UNESCO.

Lorna Peterson

Publishing Industry

views updated May 21 2018


PUBLISHING INDUSTRY. Book publishing in the United States grew from a single printing press imported from England in 1638 to an industry boasting more than 2,600 publishing houses and generating nearly $25 billion a year in revenue in 2000. The country's most famous publishing houses, some of which date back to the 1800s, have been transformed from private, family-owned companies to multinational media conglomerates. With the advent of the World Wide Webin the 1990s and other advances in electronic publishing technology, the industry is at the cutting edge of the electronic revolution that is transforming the American economy.

Publishing in Early America

In 1638 a printing press was imported to Cambridge, Massachusetts, from England. Two years later Stephen Daye (also spelled Day) used that press to print the first English-language book in America, The Whole Booke of Psalmes, also known as the Bay Psalm Book. This printing press issued many other religious works, including John Eliot's Indian Bible, a 1663 translation of the Scriptures into the Algonquin language. The Boston-Cambridge area has remained a center of publishing since these colonial beginnings.

Philadelphia is another publishing center with origins dating to the colonial period. William Bradford, who had come to Pennsylvania with William Penn, established a press in Philadelphia in 1685. Five years later he built the first paper mill in the colonies on the city's outskirts. Bradford moved to New York in 1693, but his descendants remained in Philadelphia where they were leading publishers until the nineteenth century. Philadelphia's bestknown publisher was Benjamin Franklin, who opened his print shop in 1728. In addition to the Pennsylvania Gazette, Franklin published numerous books, including the Poor Richard's Almanack (1732–1757), which had impressive sales of 10,000 copies per year.

In 1744 Franklin began publishing popular English novels in the colonies. He was a pioneer in this area, and his three editions of Samuel Richardson's Pamela rapidly sold out. Just prior to the American Revolution, Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, became the most successful publisher of European books in the colonies. Thomas printed such popular English works as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and John Cleland's racy Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, better known as Fanny Hill.

Georgia was the last of the thirteen colonies to get a printing press, in 1762. The type of books published in the colonies varied by region: nearly half of the books printed on New England presses were religious titles, while more than half of the books published in the South dealt with law. During the colonial period, printers were often booksellers, selling books in their print shops. Some booksellers placed orders directly with printers.

The Rise of New York as the Publishing Capital

The nineteenth century set a pattern of trends in the publishing industry that would continue into following centuries. By 1850, New York City had surpassed Boston and Philadelphia to become the center of the publishing industry in the United States, a position that the city occupied into the twenty-first century. Such nineteenth-century New York publishers as Harper, Putnam, and Scribner were still important names in the industry in 2000. The 1840s saw the beginning of the royalty system, and international copyright protection enacted at the end of the century ensured authors payment of their royalties. The large publishing houses that made New York so prominent in the industry exercised so much influence throughout the county that they forced many of the local printers that flourished through the 1700s and early 1800s out of business. A similar scenario occurred in the late twentieth century, when large retailers placed many local bookshops out of business.

The first great New York City publishing house was Harper Bros., founded in 1817. By 1840 George Palmer Putnam, in partnership with John Wiley, had also established a publishing house in the city, and in 1846 Charles Scribner founded his publishing house in New York. Together, these three firms launched New York as the center of the U.S. book publishing industry. Like many of the city's manufacturers, these publishers took advantage of the Erie Canal, which opened markets in the West to New York in 1825. New York publishers offered better prices than local printers did, because they could reduce overhead costs by printing and shipping books in larger quantities. Many smaller printers could not compete with this competition from the large New York publishing houses.

Like many publishers of the 1800s, Harper Bros. took advantage of the lack of international copyright enforcement. The firm printed pirated copies of works by such British authors as Charles Dickens, William Make-peace Thackeray, and Anne, Charlotte, and Emily Brontë. Harper Bros.' best-selling pirated work by a British author was Thomas Babington Macaulay's History of England from the Accession of James II. The book sold approximately 400,000 copies, a figure that would classify it as a nonfiction bestseller at the turn of the twentieth century. Because international copyright laws were not enforced, U.S. publishers did not pay royalties to either the British authors or their publishers. The American market had grown to be so significant that, in 1842, Dickens traveled to the United States in an effort to secure royalties from the sale of his works. He was unsuccessful at recouping this money, but the trip did give Dickens the material for his book American Notes for General Circulation, which Harper Bros. promptly pirated.

The Constitution had granted the federal government authority to ensure that American writers and inventors were given exclusive rights to their work, and in 1790 Congress enacted legislation to advance domestic copyright protection afforded to U.S. authors. By the late nineteenth century, American authors had become sufficiently well known throughout the world that their works had significant sales abroad. To ensure that these American authors, as well as their publishers, received the royalties due them from sales outside the United States, Congress entered into the International Copyright Act of 1891. Although this secured American authors and publishers royalties from sales in other signatory countries, it also meant the end of U.S. publishers pirating works of foreign authors.

Until the mid-nineteenth century, most American authors published at their own expense. For example, Walt Whitman self-published and sold his 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass. However, a printer and bookseller might share costs with an author whose work appeared to have strong sales potential. When American publishers began to spend their own funds to print books, they generally paid authors no royalties until they had recovered the initial expense incurred in printing the book. George Palmer Putnam instituted the modern royalty system in 1846, offering authors 10 percent of a book's sale price for each copy sold.

The paperback was another innovation of the nineteenth-century book publishing industry. Although paperbound pamphlets and tracts had existed since the colonial era, the sales of paperbound novels exploded in the mid-1800s. In 1860, Erastus Beadle, a printer in Ostega County, New York, published A Dime Song Book, a paperbound collection of lyrics to popular songs. Sales of this book were so strong that in the same year Beadle published another 10-cent paperbound book, Maleska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Anne S. W. Stephens. The book was an adventure novel, which became staples of the genre known as "dime novels." Whether a dime novel was a detective story, an adventure story, or an historical tale, it always featured an all-American hero who saved the day, triumphed over evil and vice, and was handsomely rewarded. Gilbert Patten created the hero figure Frank Merriwell, whose exploits helped sell 125 million copies of Patten's books. Although their literary merits were questioned, dime novels were a reading staple until the early 1910s, when pulp magazines and comic books surpassed them in popularity.

While readers of dime novels enjoyed wholesome tales, other readers of the mid-1800s indulged their tastes for the more salacious literature that had become a specialty of New York's publishers. Anthony Comstock, an anti-obscenity crusader and secretary of the New York Society for Suppression of Vice, led a successful campaign in 1870 that forced New York publishing houses to stop printing such racy fiction. Comstock, a special officer of the U.S. Postal Service, also succeeded in persuading Congress to pass the so-called Comstock laws that prohibited the postal service from carrying material deemed obscene. Comstock carried on his anti-obscenity campaign until his death in 1915, and he was so effective that New York publishers practiced self-censorship well into the twentieth century. Although the movement led by Comstock had as its goal the suppression of obscene publications, the entire literary and publishing community felt the effects of this censorship. George Bernard Shaw coined the term "Comstockery" for this form of censorship, and H. L. Mencken railed against Comstock and his movement for making it "positively dangerous to print certain ancient and essentially decent English words."

A New Generation in Publishing

The 1920s is generally acknowledged as the beginning of the Modern Age in American literature. In this decade, a new generation of American literary giants came to prominence. Their work was often too bold to be printed by the established New York publishers that still felt the censorial effects of Comstock and his campaigns. This new generation of writers required a new generation of publishers that would dare to champion new, modern American literature. The 1920s saw the founding of such important publishing houses as Simon and Schuster, Random House, Alfred A. Knopf, and Viking Press.

Although Random House would grow to be the largest and most successful publisher in the country, and would hold that position into the twenty-first century, Simon and Schuster introduced some important industry innovations with long-term consequences. In 1939 the firm reintroduced mass-market paperback books with its Pocket Book imprint. Paperbacks received further attention in the early 1950s from Doubleday: The publishing house followed the lead set by British publisher Penguin Books and reprinted literary classics in paperback under its Anchor Books imprint. This helped to remove the lowbrow stigma that had been associated with paperbacks since the days of the dime novel, and by the twenty-first century a wide range of books—from the Bible and other classics to professional references and textbooks—were available in paperback.

The Great Depression of the 1930s hit the book publishing industry as hard as it hit every other sector of the American economy. Booksellers at that time were mostly small local businesses, and to help them survive the economic hardships of the depression, Simon and Schuster invented a system allowing booksellers to return unsold copies of books for credit against future purchases. Other publishers quickly had to follow Simon and Schuster's lead, and the practice became the industry standard. At times booksellers have been able to use this system to their advantage to clear inventories or to "pay" for copies of new books by returning unsold copies. Publishers have adapted to the system of returns by adding costs of shipping, warehousing, and recycling returned copies into the price of books.

The 1920s also saw the establishment of book clubs as a new way to market books. The Book-of-the- Month-Club was the first, started in 1926, and was followed by the Literary Guild in 1927. By the 1970s, approximately 150 book clubs were in business, generating almost $250 million in sales, or 8 percent of the industry's revenue at that time. By the 1990s, though, book clubs were struggling to survive because of competition from national bookstore chains and Internet booksellers. At the turn of the twenty-first century, only a handful of book clubs were still in business.

Consolidation in the Industry

Beginning the 1960s, a major trend in publishing was the merging of houses, as well as the consolidation of retail sales outlets. One of the first mergers to occur was Random House's purchase of Alfred A. Knopf in 1960. In 1965 RCA acquired Random House for $40 million and added it to RCA's roster of media companies, which included NBC Radio and Television. In 1980, Random House was acquired by Advanced Communications and became part of the New house family's media empire. During this time a number of publishers, including Crown, Fawcett, and Ballatine, were merged with Random House. In 1998 Random House was acquired by Bertelsmann AG, a German-based media conglomerate that, at the time of Random House's purchase, already owned the Bantam Doubleday Dell Group.

Simon and Schuster was acquired by Gulf + Western in 1975. From 1984 to 1994, the company acquired more than sixty companies, including Prentice-Hall, Silver Burdett, and Macmillan Publishing Company. With the addition of these educational, professional, and reference imprints, Simon and Schuster's revenue grew from $200 million in 1983 to more than $2 billion in 1997. In 1989, the Gulf + Western corporation restructured and emerged as Paramount Communications. In 1994, shortly after the purchase of Macmillan, Paramount was bought by Viacom Inc., which also owned MTV. In 1998 the company sold its education, professional, and reference units to Pearson PLC, which later merged with Longman.

This mass consolidation has made unlikely partners out of former competitors. For example, Prentice-Hall and Addison Wesley, which were rivals in the textbook and professional book markets, are owned by the same parent company, Longman-Pearson (which also owns Viking, Penguin, Putnam and Dutton). Consolidation has allowed a handful of major publishing conglomerates to dominate the industry. These include Bertelsmann, Viacom, Longman-Pearson, News Corporation, and Germany's Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck.

Consolidation was part of an overall economic trend of the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Book publishers were also forced to consolidate because of the consolidation of retail outlets. Traditionally, booksellers were small, locally owned businesses. They were able to make a profit by maintaining low overhead costs such as rent. These booksellers usually stocked extensive inventories of books published in previous years (known in the industry as backlist titles). However, when shopping malls began to attract people in the 1960s and 1970s, many bookstores could not follow their customers, as rents in the malls were higher and retail space was at a premium.

In the 1970s, national chain bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks began to open retail outlets in malls across the country. By buying in volume, chains could earn more profit on each copy of a book sold, allowing them to pay higher rents. Buying in volume also meant that they could negotiate deeper discounts from publishers. By passing this discount on to book buyers, the chains were able to attract customers away from the smaller independent bookstores.

Because the chains first opened stores in malls where retail space is at a premium, they could not carry an extensive inventory of backlist titles. This had a profound effect on publishers. Many publishers relied on backlist sales as a steady income stream that helped them weather years when newly printed titles (i.e., frontlist titles) did not sell as well as anticipated. As chains carried fewer and fewer backlist titles for sale, publishers were compelled to print ever-more successful frontlist titles. Thus, publishers had to cultivate a roster of authors whose books could almost always be counted on as instant bestsellers. In developing this roster, publishers had to pay premiums to attract and keep these authors. For example, in 1972, best-selling author Irving Wallace signed a contract with Bantam Books worth $2.5 million. At that time, Wallace's contract represented a little less than 0.1 percent of the entire industry's revenues. To be able to afford such a contract, a publisher like Bantam needed extensive financial resources; a lone publishing house may not have these resources, but a publishing conglomerate would.

During the 1980s and 1990s, chain booksellers changed their marketing tactics by creating what is known in the industry as the superstore. A prototype superstore was the original Borders Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This store carried a large backlist inventory and had a library-like atmosphere that encouraged browsing. When the store was bought by Waldenbooks, then owned by K Mart, Inc., the original Borders formula was basically replicated nationwide, but with more emphasis on frontlist titles and bestsellers. In 1989 Barnes and Noble bought Bookstop, a chain of supermarket-style bookstores, and made its entrance into superstore book retailing. During the 1990s, Barnes and Noble and Borders rapidly expanded the number of their superstores, combining the deeply discounted bestsellers that were staples of mall stores with the extensive inventory of backlist titles that was the trademark of traditional independent bookstores. This combination provided stiff competition that many independent bookstores could not match, and the chains became the dominant bookselling outlets. This allowed the chains to negotiate even greater discounts from publishers, which further increased market share and drove an even greater number of independent bookstores out of business.

As the chains continued to discount prices, the industry as a whole came to rely more heavily on the bestsellers that guaranteed high-volume sales and profits. Because of their popularity and the reliability with which they produced bestsellers, a handful of authors came to dominate the book publishing industry. Between 1986 and 1996, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Stephen King, Danielle Steel, and Dean Koontz wrote sixty-three of the one hundred bestselling books in the United States. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, later joined this elite group of super-selling authors.

Electronic Publishing

Just as consolidation was transforming the book industry in the 1990s, the World Wide Web and new electronic publishing technology were rewriting the rules for book publishers and sellers. Online booksellers, such as and, have had a profound effect on the way publishers market and sell books. These online bookstores offer the selection, availability, and price discounts that had been the marketing strengths of the book clubs and mail-order booksellers that now struggle to compete with the online retailers.

In the mid-1990s, many predicted the demise of the printed book, arguing that books would be supplanted by CD-ROMs, online books, and other electronic book (or e-book) technology. Although the printed book continues to flourish, CD-ROMs and Web-based technology has transformed many aspects of the book publishing industry.

For example, reference books traditionally have been multi-volume sets written by a team of authors and editors that could spend several years in preparing a new edition. Because these references took so long to be produced, they often contained outdated information by the time they were printed. Although time is still required to gather, write, and edit new reference information, electronic publishing technology has dramatically reduced the time needed to produce an updated reference. Often updates are published on a Web site and can be downloaded by subscribers. Web-based and CD-ROM technology has also greatly improved the way reference information can be searched. By enabling sound, color images, and video to be incorporated into a reference, electronic publishing technology has also transformed the very nature of this type of publication.

Another innovation of electronic publishing is print-on-demand. This type of technology allows a publisher to print a single copy of a book at the request of a customer. Textbook publishers offer this technology to teachers, allowing them to create custom textbooks for specific courses electronically. Print-on-demand has also extended the amount of time a book is available for purchase. Traditionally, a publisher stopped printing new copies of a book and declared it "out of print" when sales dwindled to the point that the firm could no longer afford to print more copies. Print-on-demand, however, allows customers to have printed copies of a book whenever they want, and a publisher may never have to declare a book out-of-print. This technology was still a premium service at the beginning of the twenty-first century, but many observers of the publishing industry believed all bookstores would have print-on-demand services eventually, giving readers an almost endless choice of titles to purchase.

E-book technology allows readers to download books onto a variety of personal computing systems. Still in its infancy, this technology had the potential to restructure the entire publishing industry. In September 2001, Random House, Penguin Putnam, Harper Collins, and Simon and Schuster, all rival publishing houses, entered into a agreement to bypass established online booksellers and sell e-books directly on the Yahoo! Web site. Many industry experts took this arrangement, which allows publishers to sell books directly to customers, to be a harbinger of the future online technology will create for book publishing.


Epstein, Jason. Book Business: Publishing, Past, Present, and Future. New York: Norton, 2001.

Greco, Albert N. The Book Publishing Industry. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.

Korda, Michael. Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900–1999. New York: Barnes and Noble, 2001.

Schiffrin, Andre. The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read. London: Verso, 2001.


See alsoLiterature ; Printing Industry .

Publishing Industry

views updated Jun 27 2018


Book publishing began to flourish in the American colonies during the eighteenth century. Printing began in 1639 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and expanded geographically to Boston in 1674, Philadelphia in 1685, and New York City in 1693. Almanacs, primers, and law books were published; theology being the most popular subject. Books were sold in various ways: through subscription, by the printer, in the streets by hawkers, and in shops by booksellers. Hezekiah Usher, who added books to his general merchandise inventory around 1647, may have been the first American bookseller.

The availability of reading matter after 1650 contributed to the spread of literacy and an educated middle class. During the eighteenth century prose novels grew in popularity, while among those of modest means almanacs and chapbooks were more common. Benjamin Franklin's (17061790) Poor Richard's Almanack (sic), which contained a variety of information as well as religious and moral sayings, was published in Philadelphia in several editions from 1732 to 1764. Chapbooks typically contained a popular story illustrated with woodcuts.

In 1800 the Library of Congress was established. The growth of book publishing led to the establishment of commercial lending libraries in the eighteenth century and, in the nineteenth century, free public libraries. The nineteenth century marked a new era in book publishing brought on by technological innovations that significantly reduced the cost of printing and publishing books. These innovations included stereotyping, the iron press, steam power, mechanical typecasting and typesetting, and new methods of reproducing illustrations. Paper and bindings became less expensive. After 1820 cloth cases began replacing leather bindings, and publishers that had previously issued their works unbound began to publish them already bound.

The nineteenth century book trade was marked by expansion and competition, both in Europe and in the United States. Populations were rapidly growing, communications were improving, and there was a strong desire both for self-improvement and for entertainment, all of which contributed to a strong book trade. In the United States publishing gradually became concentrated in a few major cities: Philadelphia, Boston, and New York City. In addition to publishing American authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, U.S. publishers competed fiercely to publish reprint editions of British works by Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Macaulay, and others. U.S. publishers would wait at the dockside for a new British title and have a reprint edition ready within hours. Many of these editions were pirated, with no royalties paid to the authors.

Comprehensive catalogs of books began as early as the book fairs held in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1564, and in Leipzig, Germany, in 1594. During the nineteenth century several such lists were published in England and France and became national lists, with the first U.S. Cumulative Book List appearing in 1898.

Many small publishing houses were started in the United States in the 1890s and in the early part of the twentieth century. Start-up costs were low, and it was relatively inexpensive to publish an edition of 1,000 copies of a new book. Public education created a need for textbooks, and publishers began to specialize. In 1912 the Authors' League was formed in the United States to help standardize relations between authors and publishers, especially regarding contracts and the payment of royalties.

Following World War I (19141918), booming economic conditions produced an even more prosperous middle class who demanded even more books. The number of publishing houses grew. U.S. authors, such as Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis, found a world market. New York City became a source of talent for publishers everywhere. Universities grew in number and college textbooks became an important part of the publishing industry.

Book clubs that offered books by mail began to appear following World War I, with the Book-of-the-Month Club starting in 1926; its rival was The Literary Guild. Book clubs experienced a decline in popularity in the 1950s with the advent of cheap paperbound books.

The Great Depression (19291939) caused a trade slump in book publishing beginning in October 1929. In 1935 British publisher Allen Lane launched the Penguin series of paperbacks, and it immediately caught on. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II (19391945) Penguin paperbacks became available in the United States through Ian Ballantine, who later founded both Bantam Books and Ballantine Books. U.S. distribution was later taken over by Victor Weybright, who in 1948 founded the New American Library, another successful paperback venture.

The most successful U.S. publisher of mass paperbound books was Pocket Books, founded in June 1939 by Robert F. de Graff. Partnering with Richard Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster, founders of publishing house Simon and Schuster, de Graff began with a modest list of 10 titles, all reprints. Their success was immediate and unprecedented, and the company continued to dominate mass-market paperback publishing for decades. Several magazine publishers decided to launch paperback imprints, including Avon Books in 1941, Popular Library in 1942, and Dell Books in 1943.

World War II disrupted publishing but brought hidden benefits. Nazi persecution of the Jews resulted in the emigration of publishing talent to England and the United States, among other countries. Paper shortages caused publishers to print fewer new titles and fewer copies, but many of these smaller editions sold out to a public that had more time to read. There were also fewer consumer goods to compete with books, because of wartime rationing. As a result a new reading public emerged, and social and economic conditions favored publishing in the postwar period.

Technological developments after World War II spurred the publication of many new technical books, including college textbooks. There was also a major advance in printing, with photo composition replacing the labor-intensive methods of the traditional letterpress system. Large print runs of 100,000 or more copies could now be economically printed, although the problem of printing economical short runs of a few thousand copies remained.

By the 1950s paperback books were more than just a novelty, with paperback sales reaching 200 million copies and paperback revenues an estimated $46 million in 1950. In fact, a paperback revolution took place in the 1950s in the United States and throughout the world. It converted book borrowers into book buyers and created a large population of book buyers. For the first time books fell into the area of impulse buying. They were offered for sale in a variety of new locations from drugstores to airports. Scholarly paperbacks, aimed at university students, began appearing in the United States in the 1950s and soon spread to England and the European continent.

By the 1960s paperbacks had become a fixture of U.S. life. They reflected the social change of the decade, and in some cases helped bring it about. Paperback publishers perfected the "instant book" during the 1960s, providing in-depth treatment of major news stories within days of the event. Bestsellers were emphasized, with many authors benefiting from the wide exposure they received through paperbacks.

The tremendous profits generated by paperbacks in the 1960s and 1970s brought another change to publishing. Large corporations began to look at publishing as an area for investment. During the late 1960s and early 1970s many independent paperback firms came under the control of giant corporations such as Gulf & Western, CBS, RCA, and Warner Communications. These parent corporations made large amounts of cash available to their paperback subsidiaries, resulting in new levels of bidding among publishers for bestsellers. By the mid-1970s, million-dollar auctions for paperback rights were commonplace. Unfortunately, this resulted in higher prices for consumers; paperback sales, which had climbed steadily since their introduction, began to level off. During the late 1970s and early 1980s several paperback houses went out of business. It became more common for publishers to issue both hardcover and paperback editions, rather than selling the paperback rights to a separate firm.

Consolidation affected the rest of the book publishing industry as well. Fifteen major corporations dominated the industry by the early 1970s. This consolidation continued through the 1990s, when seven giant publishers accounted for 80 percent of all bestsellers in 1992. Concentration of power raised concerns about the quality and diversity of books being published, and some looked to small presses to fill the need for less popular but higher quality titles that catered to a variety of special interests.

Book publishing experienced tremendous growth during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. From sales of $1.68 billion in 1963, annual book sales doubled by 1973 then reached $8.6 billion in 1983. They nearly doubled again to reach $17.2 billion in 1993.

During the 1990s book publishers became more concerned with cutting costs, maximizing profits, and effective management techniques as a result of corporate ownership. For too long publishers had lagged behind other industries in achieving efficiencies in production, distribution, and marketing. Many challenges faced the book publishing industry in the 1990s, ranging from huge cash advances required to capture best-selling authors to competition from computers and VCRs for the leisure time of traditional book customers.

The fortunes of the publishing industry have been closely related to existing social, economic, and demographic conditions and trends. During the second half of the 1980s, children's publishing experienced tremendous growth, from $336 million in sales in 1985 to $1.1 billion in 1992, as the "baby boomlet" market developed. Suddenly, though, sales dropped by one-half, and publishers were forced to rethink their strategies. Trends favorable to publishing in the 1990s and beyond included higher enrollments in schools and colleges as well as an aging population that's interested in a variety of issues.

See also: Blanche Wolfe Knopf, McGraw-Hill Companies


Davis, Kenneth C. American Literary Publishing Houses, 19001980: Trade and Paperback. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1986.

Hilts, Paul. "The American Revolution in Book Production." Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1992.

Holland, Steve. The Mushroom Jungle: A History of Postwar Paperback Publishing. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1994.

Marmaduke, John. "Why Publishers are Losing Market Share." Publishers Weekly, November 10, 1997.

Maryles, Daisy. "They're the Tops." Publishers Weekly, January 4, 1999.

what can be said of the past 25 years in publishing, other than that they make the previous 100 seem slow in comparison?

publishers weekly , july 1997