The Golden Age for Book Printing
By a margin of 35% to 21%, most adults choose reading over television according to a Harris Interactive telephone survey of 1,014 US adults. In 2004, 175,000 new titles were published according to RR Bowker. The total number of books in print is nearly 3,000,000. That is a staggering number of choices for adults to read.
There are now more college graduates than at any other time in history; which means there are more people interested in reading than at any other time. It also means there are more people capable of authoring a book than at any other time in history—a fact confirmed by the growing number of new titles each year.
All these circumstances taken together make this the golden age for book printing. Never have there been more titles to print and reprint than today.
With this tremendous choice available to readers, however, there is a paradox—fewer and fewer copies of a single title are sold. Publishers are aware of this paradox and have to make two important decisions: 1) how many books to print and 2) how to reach the target audience for the book.
Book printers can help publishers with these decisions. By using short-run, digital printing, publishers can economically produce shorter runs of books. Printing 500 books today may make as much sense as printing 5,000 books did several years ago. While the unit cost of each book is higher, the total investment in printing is less. Furthermore, if the book sells well, the publisher has the option to print another run of digital, short-run books or move to a traditional book printer.
Reaching the target audience is another area in which the book printer can help. Savvy book printers offer to print, package and send review copies to selected print media for book reviews. In additional to review copies, the book printer can print and distribute a direct selling campaign similar to ones they may be producing for non-book printing customers.
For a fascinating discussion of the new dynamics of reading, please read “So Many Books, Reading in an Age of Abundance” by Gabriel Zaid. This book is an example of a well-made, short-run, digital book in addition to being an interesting read.