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US book market trends

21 March 2005

A recent Association of American PublishersThe national trade association of the American book publishing industry; AAP has more than 300 members, including most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies meeting highlighted interesting trends in the American book business.

Jim Chandler, CEO of the Ingram Book Group distribution giant noted ‘the massive fundamental structural change in the industry’ over the last 10 years. This had been accompanied by major changes in consumer expectations, with book buyers expecting more titles to be available, at a wider range of prices and in more places than ever before. He pinpointed growth in demand, with Ingram having 30,000 active trade accounts, doing business with 17,000 publishers and dealing with over a million titles flagged as active for stocking in their warehouse, which is more than triple the number of 8 years ago. He also noted that Ingram was shipping a massive 5.25 million packages annually to individual customers.

Borders CEO Greg Josefowicz highlighted flat sales at a time when the number of titles published was increasing. He mentioned some interesting aspects of consumer behaviour: two-thirds of people going into Borders stores do so with no specific purchase in mind; 80% are ‘regularly seeking help to frame their buying decision’ and an astounding half the purchases made in their stores are on behalf of someone else.

Borders recently experimented with carrying fewer romance titles and managed to double their sales of the category. Interestingly, although poetry sales are slender, customers believed that a well-stocked poetry section indicates a good selection of titles throughout the store.

Deborah Dugan of Disney said that the company increasingly saw itself as a content provider rather than a publisher. Research shows that ‘reading decline is taking a cliff jump’ for children but she urged publishers to ‘stop thinking book only’, as the industry should be thinking of other ways to reach them.