published every year: Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson

These numbers may surprise you. According to UNESCO, which compiles the total number of books published in every country, there was a total of 2.2 million books issued in the most recent year available. That year was 2011 or 2012 for the top producers, much earlier for small nations, in many cases as far back as the mid-1990s. The United States led the list with 292,000 new books or editions published in 2011, followed by China with 242,000 in 2012 and the UK with 150,000 in 2011.

However, the UNESCO figures dramatically understate the reality, if you believe the numbers reported by R. R. Bowker LLC, which issues the ISBN numbers used by librarians to track individual titles.

Year# New Titles

Do you find these numbers staggering? I do. More than one million books published every year in the United States! However, if you dig a little deeper into Bowker’s numbers, you’ll find the reality doesn’t look quite so daunting to would-be authors. Of those 3,000,000 titles in 2011, only about 300,000 were books published by traditional publishing companies. The remaining 2.7 million were on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and “micro-niche” publications.

Okay, so now that you’re breathing a little easier, get ready for this: Google estimates that as of August 2010, there were 129,864,880 books in existence.

Are you happy you know this now?

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