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28 million books published worldwide in 2013

27 October 2014

Some encouraging publishing-related figures have emerged this week. The number of books published worldwide in 2013 was an astounding 28 million, raising the question of whether there are enough readers - and buyers - for them all. In the US there were 390,000 ISBNs for self-published books and 300,000 for trade (general) books.

A decade ago, in 2003, Gabriel Zaid, author of So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance noted that: "The reading of books is growing arithmetically; the writing of books is growing exponentially." This does seem like something all those involved in book publishing should worry about, as the effect of so many books being made available must be a decline in the average number of each one sold.

At the same time the UK publishing market led the world in terms of the number of books published relative to the size of the population. Only the US ((304,912) and China (444,000) published more. Richard Mollett, CEO of the UK Publishers Association, said at the recent International Publishers' Association meeting where these figures were announced:

"There are a number of factors behind this world-leading performance. As well as the advantage of the English language, British creativity, innovation and historic strength in publishing all play their part. British publishing is a central part of the success story of our creative industries and this performance shows that the UK's legal and commercial environment - notably our copyright laws - continue to be the underpinning to strong economic performance."

The UK's net revenue stayed the same from 2012 to 2013 at £4.7bn. Whilst markets such as Spain with -10% and Italy with -6% were obviously affected by other economic factors, it's encouraging that the Chinese book business forged ahead with +9% and Brazil had +5%. Declining markets in Europe are offset by big growth rates in fast-developing countries. Books, literacy, education and the printed word play a big part in development and the future looks bright for writers if you look at the international picture, especially if they are native English-speaking writers. The market is continuing to open up for them and this trend doesn't look likely to change.

Amidst all this self-congratulation there are still many problems but it is good to know that the international publishing scene is so relatively buoyant.