Only 2% of the world’s paper is used in publishing books, a percentage that is more or less stable.
And yet the number of books being published each year is getting higher and higher. In fact, it is estimated that between 2006 and 2010 the number of books published in the UK has tripled.
So how can both concepts be true? How can it be that we have produced three times as many books as we did four years ago, and yet have not used any more paper?
The answer is that book runs have collapsed. Whereas twenty years ago the average paperback run was around 20,000, now it is a tiny number that is almost impossible to calculate since most publishers are using print on demand.
What this means is that the publisher doesn’t build up a stock and then ship the stock out to bookshops. Rather the publisher just prints copies when orders come in, and sells them on direct to the person placing the order.
Bookstores are reporting that each year they sell less. Of course, when a major chain like Borders closes, then other stores like Waterstones pick up the sales a little – but only for a while. The number of sales through bookstores is going down.
Of course many sales are now online with Amazon being the key retailer here. Amazon will stock most books – although the publishers have to give Amazon a staggering 60% discount if they want Amazon actually to hold stock (rather than simply list the book and wait for an order – which they say they will fulfill within a month).
The average non-fiction book in the UK is now estimated to sell about 300 copies – which means that for every blockbuster surrounding a TV series, there are hundreds of books that never sell more than half a dozen copies.
But it’s not true that it is getting harder to sell books even though the latest research suggests that one in four adults in the UK does not read a single book in a year (presumably including not even reading a recipe book or a car manual or a football annual or a fashion book or….).
What is happening is that books are becoming more and more niche. Whereas 30 years ago if you wanted a paperback book on British history you would probably have been able to get one on a period of British history (the 20th century, the Tudors, the Anglo-Saxons etc) but nothing much more defined. Now, if you were so minded, you could probably find a book on life in north London between 1900 and 1914.
In fact the digital revolution has meant more and more books about more and more specific issues. But because the print runs are so small, the amount of paper that is used is much the same.
But what has increased is the amount of storage space required. Most publishers keep four or five copies of each book they publish, and leave it at that. Since the number of books being published is increasing so rapidly they end up storing more and more and more books.
Which is where we come in.
Based in the West Midlands, we can securely store your company’s documents.
There’s more information on our website or give us a call on 0800 783 9516.