Skip to Content

200,000 books published a year (just in the UK)

13 November 2017

‘An optimist may think this abundance marvellous: a sign of publishing virility, of a lively literary culture. They would be wrong. It is a disaster for readers and for writers...

Do we really think that we need all 200,000 books? The sheer scale of the "publishing numbers racket" means that too many mediocre books are appearing, crowding out attention from better books. It becomes harder for the reader to find the good. Browsing in Waterstones for a decent read is like panning for gold in the middle of rapids.

Then there is the brute fact that shelf space is limited. Every new book evicts an old, probably better one. For every "exciting", over-puffed shiny debut, a tested and trusted book loses out. The shelf life of authors becomes ever shorter...

And pity that writer. Here's a figure to chill the blood: every literary fiction title written in English sold an average of 263 copies in 2015...'

Robbie Millen, Literary Editor, in The Times