How Many Books Are Going to be Published in 2012? (Prepare for a Shock)

I hadn’t planned to write any more about the book world. For one, it’s too depressing, and for another, I’m getting to where I’m okay with it. I’ve never had much use for 99.99% of books published anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if the world is being overrun with terrible books. It always has been. And, truth be told, I don’t enjoy reading much any more. After having read more than 20,000 books, I’m way past the first flush of enthusiasm when it comes to new books. (Okay, I admit it, I’m jaded.) When people start writing before they have read thousands of books, they don’t know that the story they are telling has been written a zillion times before. Nor do their equally unread readers know or care. It’s new and fresh to them. So, perhaps I should leave the book world to those who still embrace it.

So why am I writing about the book world again? I came across a statistic tonight that totally staggered me (All information comes from Bowkers, the company in the U.S. who issues ISBN numbers).

300,000 books were published in the U.S. 2003.

411,422 books were published in the U.S. in 2007.

1,052,803 books were published in the U.S. 2009.

Approximately 3,000,000 books were published in the U.S. in 2011.

And . . . drum roll, please . . . in an online interview, Seth Godin suggests that 15,000, 000 books will be published in 2012.

15,000,000. Yikes.

Google estimates that as of August 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in existence. Which means that the total number of books that could be published in 2012 is more than 1/10 of all the books in existence. That is an unfathomable jump, a 500% increase in a single year. (That is correct, right? 3,000,000 times 500% = 15,000,000.) Unbelievable.

I got an email from a book marketer today, wanting me to write an article about what the publishing landscape will look like in 2016. I cannot imagine what it will look like. Even if the number of books published returns to the more typical 200% increase per year, by the year 2016, we will have doubled all the books that were in existence in 2011.

Who is going to read all those books? Who is going to buy them?