Publishers Cut Back Book Offerings in 2005

Faced with years of slow, and even declining sales, the publishing industry has finally responded in kind. For the first time since 1999, the number of new books is going down.

"In 2005, publishers were more cautious and disciplined when it came to their lists," Gary Aiello, chief operating officer of Bowker, which compiles publishing statistics, said Tuesday in a statement.

"We see that trend continuing in 2006. The price of paper has already gone up twice this year, and publishers, especially the small ones, will have to think very carefully about what to publish."

According to Bowker, the number of new books and new editions of old works published last year dropped to 172,000, about 18,000 less than in 2004. Publishers, especially small and middle-sized ones, all cut back. Bowker is projecting declines in history, biography, children's books, technology and even religion, supposedly one of the industry's fastest growing categories.

"Publishers are coming to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the market cannot handle 200,000 books each year," Bowker consultant Andrew Grabois told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

"For years, the strategy was to put out everything you could. It was like throwing spaghetti against the wall and hoping something would stick. Now, at least for a while, they're finding that publishing less is a more effective way of business."