From today’s Publishers Weekly summary of Bowker’s latest report on publishing:
Despite the belief in many quarters that the growth of e-books will mean the death of the printed book, the number of books produced by traditional publishers rose 5% in 2010, to a projected 316,480, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday morning from R. R. Bowker. That number, however, is dwarfed by the growth in output of nontraditional titles, which jumped 169% to 2,766,260. As Bowker notes, the majority of nontraditional titles consists largely or print-on-demand editions of public domain titles. Self-published titles are also included in the figure. Based on the preliminary figures, the combination of traditional and nontraditional books totaled a projected 3,092,740 in 2010, up 132% from 2010.
The e-book vs. print book thing is probably misleading (as most experts point out, it seems likely we’ll live in a world of multiple formats), but the fact that there are almost 10 times more “nontraditional titles” being published than traditional ones is pretty striking. And the fact that over 3 million books were published last year is incredibly stunning. Especially since that’s up 132% over 2010 while sales for Jan/Feb 2011 for print books were down 24% compared to last year.
The sheer number of books brings to mind Gabriel Zaid’s So Many Books: Reading and Publishing in an Age of Abundance, and reinforces my fears about how people ever discover anything amid this tidal wave of titles . . . When the average American only reads like 3 or 4 books a year, something seems a bit out of whack.
This overwhelming number of books also reminds me of this:
From the New Yorker:
The Argentinean artist Marta Minujín makes not sculpture but “livable sculpture” or, better yet, “happenings.” In her 1963 work “The Destruction,” she filled the Impasse Ronsin in Paris with her artistic creations from the previous three years (primarily splatter-painted mattresses, twisted up, hung on picture frames, sewn together with pillows) and then invited fellow artists to “intervene” with them, after which she set the lot on fire, while releasing among the spectators a hundred birds and a hundred rabbits. Minujín is perhaps best known for her work with mattresses (you can view some of her delightful deconstructions on her Web site), but she also has a thing for books. In 1983, she created a full-scale model of the Parthenon in a park in Buenos Aires made (but for some metal scaffolding) entirely of books that had been banned during the last military dictatorship (there’s an incredible picture of it here). After three weeks, the public was allowed to pick the Parthenon apart and to take the books home with them.
This week, she’s back with “The Tower of Babel,” an ode to linguistic oneness erected in the Plaza San Martin to celebrate Buenos Aires being named the World Book Capital of 2011. The structure contains some thirty thousand books in various languages, many of them donated by embassies of countries around the world (the U.S. sent one thousand books; Ecuador sent thirty-five hundred). “I don’t know why we have to have different languages,” Minujín told the A.F.P. “Art needs no translation.” Noble sentiments, to be sure, but I prefer her more irreverent reason for building the tower: “It’s really amusing to be able to climb up and down a work of art.”
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .