E-books cause publishing industry growth

The publishing industry has grown over the last three years, boosted mainly by soaring e-book sales.

Bryan Snyder/Reuters
The current popularity of e-books is likely to due to the rise of cheap and easy to use e-readers, like the Nook and the Kindle.

Despite the unrelenting economic recession, the publishing industry actually appears to be growing.

According to Publisher's Weekly, a three year-long study from Bookstats of the publishing industry from 2008 through 2010 shows growth of 3.1% overall. In today's economic climate, significant industry growth anywhere in the publishing industry is a pleasant surprise.

The New York Times notes that this is the most accurate publishing industry survey yet, including data from a wide range of publishers and book genres.

However, that doesn't mean that all sectors of the publishing industry are succeeding. Media Bistro reports that mass market, hardcover, and paperback sales have all fallen about 2%.

So what's boosting the publishing industry?

E-books appear to be the saving grace here. Publisher's Weekly says that sales of e-books rose about 39% between 2008 and 2010.

The current popularity of e-books is likely to due to the rise of cheap and easy to use e-readers, like the Nook and the Kindle. Pay about $140 for an e-reader and you can carry just about any book you want around with you in your pocket. It's not hard to see why e-book sales are so strong.

Sales of higher education books, including college textbooks, have jumped as well, going up about 23% says Publisher's Weekly. This could be due in part to a weak economy, suggests The New York Times, as discouraged job seekers may be more inclined to return to school when employment prospects are few.

The recession could also be responsible for the jump in both youth and adult fiction sales – 6.6% and 8.8% respectively – says The New York Times. In darker times, fiction is like a vacation – but cheaper. As jobs grow increasingly scarce, we can always bury ourselves in engrossing novels to escape from the pressures and stresses of the real world.

Gains in sales of e-books, fiction, and higher education textbooks have boosted an entire industry. In a week of grim economic tidings, it's a bright spot on the horizon.

Megan Wasson is a Monitor contributor.

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