Research Outline

Book Market Analysis


To provide an analysis of and details on the traditional book publishing model over the last 10 years, as well as how it has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and information on the best forms of publishing for highest ROI to inform the client’s business plans over the next year.

Early Findings

Changes to Book Publishing – 10 Years

  • Over the last decade, the book publishing industry has hosted a variety of changes. Self-publishing has blossomed into a viable market, competition from other media products has soared, and the rise of digital has meant that authors and publishers need to approach their craft from updated perspectives. According to Author News, “this decade has shown that regardless of the obstacles, the need for and the love of reading don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.”
  • At the beginning of this 10-year period came the self-publishing boom, concurrently with significantly increased competition among (and for) authors. Traditional publishers had to step up their games to compete in the markets flooding with new authors and published materials. Then, digital formats began surging in popularity, which meant “the future of bookstores was called into question.”
  • Although there are an array of articles decrying the near-end of the traditional publishing industry, however, research from the US government shows that, “US readers at the end of the decade spent roughly the same amount of money on recreational books as they had at the beginning.” Succinctly put, this means the average number of book readers in this country hasn’t changed much over the last 10 years.
  • Interestingly, research proves that, prior to the current pandemic, the traditional publishing market grew, and this meant growth not only for big-name publishers, but for small and medium-sized presses, as well. The number of books available in the marketplace has also grown, both with increases in self-publishing and traditional publishing, but so too have the additional media options related to the books themselves.
  • In the first few years of the previous decade, large booksellers, like Borders, went bankrupt, and once again, local stores and indie booksellers rose in popularity. These locals could create community-based personal experiences for authors and readers, which can’t be offered by online-only booksellers or some of the big brands.
  • A US consumer survey shows that print books rank well above any other types of media (at 42%) as “the most important type of media in a parent’s home,” while ebooks ranked in with only 9% of the vote. After a big jump in sales in the few years starting this decade (2008 – 2012), ebook sales have decreased and leveled off, though still sitting lower in total sales than hard cover books and trade paperbacks. Over the course of the decade, audio books have slowly gained in popularity since these products “meet new and current readers where they’re at,” and publishers have been improving their methods of engaging recreational readers.
  • The rise of instant-printing became a reality, allowing publishers to print copies of books on-demand, rather than making huge runs at the outset of a book launch. This and other new technologies “allowed traditional publishers to respond much more quickly to unexpected demand.”
  • Some publishers responded to the growth of audiobooks by producing “slick new productions that rivaled the golden age of radio drama,” or employed huge casts, and popular actors for voice work. The Idea Logical Company notes that audiobooks “were the fastest-growing segment” over this period.
  • Additionally, the past decade has seen the meteoric rise of the “girl” generation of books and stories, as well as a huge surge in the popularity of graphic novels.
  • Competition with other media, like streaming sites, video games, and social media, has made it more difficult for the book publishing industry to compete because “streaming and endless social media feeds take up even more of potential readers’ time.” Users seek out review sites, like Goodreads, for recommendations on which books to read next, and publishers should take advantage of those sites for promotion (where possible), as well as utilizing online retailer recommendation engines, and other technical methods for improving marketing positioning and availability / flexibility of the offerings.
  • Some experts, like those at, “fear that with Kindle, Amazon may be intending some day in the not too distant future on being a vertical publishing conglomerate of its own, avoiding any middlemen, any publishers, and taking the entire business from acquisition to the purchaser.” This would seriously hurt both the traditional and self-publishing industries, and would mean the end of many of these brands.

Changes to Book Publishing – Covid-19

  • Cision / PR Newswire reports that, “due to the economic slowdown across countries owing to the Covid-19 outbreak and measures to contain it,” the global book publishing market is expected to decline about 7.5%, going from $92.8 B in 2019 to $85.9 B by the end of 2020. The market is expected to experience a much slower recovery, and only grow at CAGR 2% between 2021 and 2023 (to $91.4 B).
  • Within the global marketplace, Asia-Pacific and North America tied with 34% of the market share (each).
  • Increasing availability and usage of consumer data is driving growth in this industry, and many successful publishers are utilizing digital-first models, with some of them “investing significantly in building in-house data and analytics teams.”
  • The pandemic has caused many booksellers to close their doors, temporarily, indefinitely, or permanently, and this has caused publishers to push back release dates for new titles. Experts state that books that were expected to be in high demand during lockdown periods, like those by celebrated or respected authors, or those focusing on surviving in the new normal, had their release dates moved up. Other books, like those for authors with tours planned, had their dates moved back, so that publishers could “wait for travel restrictions to ease, and stores to reopen,” giving their titles the best chance at success.
  • Additionally, some publishers had to rearrange schedules based on availability of staff, to adjust for effective marketing during the pandemic, and to adjust to new ways to release titles. Some publishers have increased their virtual events, have improved their online ordering systems, and are hosting partner activities, like “virtual poetry workshops in our local schools.”
  • All publishers, booksellers, and authors are finding innovative ways to generate “new content tied to recent releases,” and are getting creative with their marketing approaches based on what readers need and want at this time. They hope that their book-related “content can elevate above the noise of the pandemic,” and they can keep marketing momentum moving and high.
  • Publishers Weekly has been collecting impact-events to the publishing industry since the beginning of the pandemic. It might be useful to see the cancellations, closings, policy changes, and other adjustments as experienced by those in this industry. It can be found here.

Summary of Initial Findings

  • Our initial research identified some of the major ways book publishing has changed in the last 10 years, as well as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic.