The number of books published somewhere in the world increased very slowly year by year through the first eight years of this century.
It took four years for this total to rise from 450,000 per annum in 2001 to 500,000. There were then three years of very little growth, until everything started to move. By 2008 there was a rise to 750,000 and by 2010 the total had shot up to 4,250,000.
(Apparently the cause was the growth of digital publishing – but that’s another story).
Anyway I suspect you are going to think that I have slipped an extra nought into that 2009 total, but I have checked and double checked with Nelson’s – the company that gathers book data.
And the result is there for all to see. For the number of new titles to rise from 450,000 to 750,000 took seven years – an average of 43,000 additional titles a year.
That is a big enough leap – but to go from 750,000 to 4,250,000 in two years is incredible. Put another way, the number of books being published has risen by 1.75 million a year.
If this trend were to continue the 2011 figure should come in at around 6 million new titles, and by 2020 we will be publishing over 17 million new books a year.
If the percentage growth were to continue at the rate of the last couple of years then the number of books published each year by 2020 will be 41,503,000,000,000.
Now I have contemplated this number for some time, and since I am in the business of storing printed documents I have realised that I shall need some additional storage space. The area of the UK is 94,000 square miles, give or take – which is 2.3 thousand million square feet. So I asked myself, if I am asked to have just one copy of each book published in the world in my warehouse by the end of the decade could I do it?
That means I have 41.5 thousand million books – or around 20 books in each square foot. Yes I can manage that – but only for a year, and only if I have a warehouse which is the same size as the UK.
Now I have just put this to my partners in the business and they have listened with interest. But then one of them said, “but what about Loch Foyle?” I looked at him a bit dubiously. Then I realised his point. A fair bit of the UK is actually under water. Some of my books will get a bit wet. Time to think again.
Meanwhile I can assure you that as matters stand no one has come to me with a request to store one copy of each book that will theoretically be published in 2020. And for now we do have spare space.
Book it now, while space lasts!