IVP - Behind the Books - How many new books are there? And why do we buy them?

June 6, 2008

How many new books are there? And why do we buy them?

The June 2 issue of Publishers Weekly reports that the number of new books has shot up to over 400,000 a year, but a quarter of these, well over 100,000 of them, are print-on-demand titles, most of which are self-published. The stats:

In 2002:
Traditionally published books: 215,138
Print-on-demand books: 32,639
Total: 247,777

2007 (projected):
Traditional: 276,649
POD: 134,773
Total: 411,422

And if you look at religion books in particular, it's grown from 12,253 new religion titles in 2002 to 18,956 in 2007. (Perhaps 6000 or so of these are from specifically evangelical Christian publishers.) No wonder none of us can keep up with all the new books out there.

The same issue of PW also reports the following on what influences people's book purchases:

60% are swayed by recommendations by friends or family
52% are swayed by cover art
49% are swayed by reviews
35% are swayed by a blurb/endorsement on the cover

Also, 43% of people go into bookstores looking for a specific book, and 77% make additional purchases while looking for a specific book.

This is interesting to me because I've been wondering how many people care about endorsements. I can only think of one instance when I've bought a book because of an endorsement on the back (a blurb by Anne Lamott on the book Expecting Adam by Martha Beck). But I've picked up countless books because I saw them mentioned on people's blogs (which could count as either friends' recommendations or reviews). What makes you buy a book? Do blurbs matter?

Posted by Al Hsu at June 6, 2008 9:21 AM Bookmark and Share


Some blurbs matter to me. If I don't know anything about the book, the endorsement of someone I respect will swing me toward buying it. I also like to follow student-teacher chains. I started reading Wallace Stegner when I discovered that Wendell Berry had studied under him.

However, I've also come to realize that there are some endorsers who seem to endorse just about anything. Even though I respect their own work greatly, I've found that I just can't trust their endorsement.

Comment by: Mike Hickerson at June 6, 2008 11:54 AM

Funny you ask. Actually, it makes a big difference to me.

While C.S. Lewis recommended reading books form other eras to avoid biases, and I can appreciate these and other efforts to move beyond group-think, I do really enjoy seeing how authors that are familiar with each other interact through their books, build on each others' work, etc.

I would say that the number one thing that makes me pick up a book is the publisher. The next is the topic as conveyed by title/subtitle/cover/table of contents. And after that, the endorsements. And many times the endorsements seal the deal and convince me that yes, this book is higher on the priority list than another book.

Can't think of a lot off the top of me head, but certain people's endorsements are an almost-automatic interest-inducer for me. Even more than individual endorsements, the combination of endorsements has a lot of pull. A more diverse (ideas or ethnicity or otherwise) group of endorsers impresses me more, and certain names just hold extra sway when combined with other cool people. Endorsements that are form people I like but people who are "just alike" count for less.

There's this whole complicated scoring system in my head, I suppose... Not that I'm normally conscious of it. I just want to read the book!

Comment by: Ashleigh at June 11, 2008 2:18 PM

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