Bowker, a US firm which regularly monitors all things booky, has announced that book production in the US fell last year, quite dramatically, by 18,000. And the UK has now overtaken the US in terms of the number of English-language books published. (Link from booktrade.info.)
Downturns in US book production figures are rare: it has happened only 10 times in the last 50 years. In 2005 there were only 172,000 books published. However will Americans manage? Within the total there are, of course, all sorts of variations: university press output up, adult fiction down by over 10%, and so forth.
'In 2005, publishers were more cautious and disciplined when it came to their lists,' said Gary Aiello, chief operating officer of Bowker. 'We see that trend continuing in 2006. The price of paper has already gone up twice this year, and publishers, especially the small ones, will have to think very carefully about what to publish.'
The UK, by contrast, has long held the record for the largest number of books published per capita in any language, and now comfortably replaces the US as the publisher of the most books in English: 206,000 new books last year, which is 28% up.
Michael Cader, of Publishers Lunch, is typically blunt about the UK position. The massive rise in output is, he says, 'perfectly timed to meet the country's declining demand for anything but a small set of deeply-discounted titles.'