walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Bowker released numbers on Wednesday


Gotta love a Bowker _press release_ which feels compelled to headline "Print Isn't Dead". Ouch.

First, some explanation. Bowker does "Books in Print" (and some other periodical references) which is what it sounds like it is: a list of books that are currently in print, along with enough information to identify them and order them. There's an obvious question here about a certain internet bookstore and what it uses to put its catalog together and the answer is, no, they don't use Bowker's Books In Print as a source and yes, in fact, that catalog constitutes a de facto competitor to Bowker, in that a lot of small operations that want access to information about books no longer felt compelled to pay Bowker when they could get comparable information for free instead. If you think of bibligraphic information (what it's named, who wrote it, who published it, etc.) as the "front end" and delivering the book the "back end", Bowker is purely a front end source (albeit a really comprehensive one. So comprehensive they consistently list books that do not actually exist). When they list numbers, they are talking about distinct ISBNs, not about how many books are printed much less how many make it to a retailer certainly not how many are bought by someone who might then read it or at least keep it around the house for a bit.

So when their press release says this:

"In 2008, the production of non-traditional print-on-demand books surpassed traditional book publishing for the first time and since then, its growth has been staggering. Now almost 8 times the output of traditional titles, the market is dominated by a handful of publishers. In fact, the top three publishers accounted for nearly 87% of total titles produced in 2010."

What they mean is that if you took the entire list of _distinct_ ISBNS (and yes, Virginia, that means a book with a hardcover, a trade paperback and large print edition gets counted three times), 3 publishers covered 87% and none of those three are in the Big 6 (or whatever the number is this week).

"BiblioBazaar 1,461,918
General Books LLC 744,376
Kessinger Publishing, LLC 462,480"

Kessinger isn't familiar to me; the previous two are publishers I avoid because in my head they are tightly associated with customer reviews saying their OCR scanned public domain editions are really awful. More familiar author-service houses do make an appearance further down the list.

A long tail indeed. FWIW, BiblioBazaar, General Books and, IIRC, Books LLC have a ton of overlap in their OCRd public domain titles.

Wikipedia entries:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliobazaar (says Bibliobazaar = Nabu, which explains a lot)

According to this:


Books LLC = General Books LLC, which would make #2 and #4 on the list the same operation, but would still list it at #2 in the revised list.

I can't help but feel like what these operations have done is parasitic and unhelpful, and the impact on Bowker's information feels very spam-y to me. But Bowker is so damn irrelevant, it probably doesn't matter to anyone anyway.
Tags: publishing
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