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1 million books are published a year

I was listening to an podcast recently and learned that 1,000,000 books are published EACH YEAR. As someone who maybe reads 5-10 books a year, I was astounded at this figure and felt a waive of naiveté. But should I have? Self-publishing is easily available and secondarily, books can be a natural extension of an individual’s brand. Two of my favorite podcasts hosts have recently published books this year (Scott Galloway with Post Corona and Guy Raz from How I Built this).

Is the rise of books that few people read a good thing?

Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer? Still yes. According to UNESCO, this is an important index of standard of living, education, and of a country's self-awareness.

So let’s break down those numbers…

A couple things about the data. Numbers are reported by UNESCO and Bowker, who is responsible for assigning ISBN numbers in the United States. Obviously, they have slightly different lenses given the global and regional focus.

Globally, here is a view of the top 15 countries for publishing books.

Within the US:

  • more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015, which is an incredible increase of 375% since 2010.

  • traditionally published books had climbed to over 300,000 by 2013

  • new books published each year in the U.S. has exploded by more than 600,000 since 2007, to well over 1 million annually.

What can we do to increase discoverability via technology?

So that’s a whole lot of books being written and maybe not all getting the attention they deserve. Generally, authors are not writing books to make millions. They are writing because of a passion and area of expertise. According to OverDrive,

  • Top 5 Reading Countries: India, Thailand, China, the Philippines, and Egypt. India tops the list with the average person reading 10.7 hours per week. The USA is far down the list at 5.7 hours per week, below the global average of 6.5 hours per week.

  • 27% of US adults didn’t read a single book in the last 12 months. The American average is 12 books per year.

Discovery Resources

Within the library network, Overdrive has a strategy to increase discoverability via a “Panorama Picks” strategy:

  1. Data is used to create quarterly picks focused on titles published in the last two years.

  2. Filtering out already known books helps to remove all the books that you’ve potentially already seen recommended by the media or a social network.

  3. Additionally, picks are segregated into the eight retail regions used by the American Booksellers Association. According to Alexis Petric-Black, local readers differ in their interests, so those regions really matter.

As a direct consumer, there are some startups aiming to address this opportunity as well. For what it’s worth, two of the most recognized forces in this space (GoodReads and OverDrive) and owned by massive companies (Amazon and Rakuten):

  • Bookbub: book discovery service that was created to help readers find new books and authors. The company features free and discounted ebooks selected by its editorial team, as well as book recommendations, updates from authors, and articles about books

  • Book of the Month Club: Founded in 1926 and relaunched in 2015, they are an innovative startup with a rich history and loyal user base over 150,000 active members. Feature 5 books a month.

  • Literati: a book-minded company that brings thoughtful curation and book discussions. Features Luminary book clubs, that seek to elevate the reading experience for all ages. Current luminaries? Malala, Steph Curry, Richard Branson, and others.


Are these problems that you are trying to solve for your business? Or maybe you just like to talk about eCommerce and digital strategies? Let’s talk.

This post can also be found on my Substack.


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