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5 surprising trends in the book industry

October 19, 2016

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In the changing technological landscape of the 21st century, the book publishing industry is in constant flux. Here are five trends to watch for in the publishing realm.

Return to brick-and-mortar

Years after their near-extinction—due in part to the increase of e-readers and the dominance of online booksellers—brick-and-mortar bookstores are making a comeback. In 2015, new stores began opening and others expanded to new locations, according to The Wall Street Journal. Amazon, a significant factor in the demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores, is hopping on the bandwagon with physical bookstores in Seattle, San Diego and Portland, and plans to open hundreds more by the end of 2017.

Rise of self-publishing

According to, self-publishing is becoming more popular each year. Self-published authors can earn from 60 to 80 percent of the royalties from their book’s list price as opposed to traditional publishing, where authors earn only around 12 percent to 17 percent. According to, self-publishing can serve as a catalyst for breaking into mainstream publishing. Publishers are more likely to take on a book if the writer has already proven his success through self-publishing.

Audio book boom

With the recent rise of podcasts and in-car and home streaming, audio books are experiencing a bump in popularity as well. According to, audio books are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry: 43,000 new audiobooks were released in 2015, compared to 36,000 in 2014 and 20,000 in 2013. Between August 2014 and August 2015, sales of audio book sales increased 43.4 percent. Publishers believe the ease of listening to an audiobook anywhere draws consumers.

Authors and social media

Gone are the days when an author retreated to her office to write, emerging six months later with a finished manuscript. These days, authors are expected to keep up with social media channels and expand their reach digitally to boost sales. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, has 8.44 million Twitter followers. Rupi Kaur, a young writer from Canada, landed a book deal partly because of the 672,000 fans who follow her on Instagram.

Apps are up, e-readers down

When the Kindle and Nook were first released, a customer needed to own a dedicated e-reader in order to access their libraries and features. Now, you can download a Kindle app on your smart phone, computer or tablet and have the same experience. Amazon and Barnes & Noble realized that expanding the market for e-books more than made up for potential declines in the sales of the devices themselves. (According to Bookseller magazine, e-reader sales fell for the very first time in 2015.) The Wall Street Journal reports that publishers are looking toward phone applications instead of e-readers. Although the majority of people who use electronics to read use tablets, that number is declining as the number of those reading on phones increases.

Reporter’s Takeaway

• The trend toward more brick-and-mortar bookstores, most famously announced by Amazon, is spreading across the country. Explore the reasons for the original decline in your region, as well as a possible resurgence.

• Self-publishing is another major shift in the book business. It’s worth investigating how this is impacting the traditional publishing industry as well as the platforms on which authors now publish. No matter how they are being published, authors are expected to use social media as a key marketing tool; take a look at authors who are using it most effectively.

• While audio books have gained in popularity, the sale of e-readers is in a slump. You can conduct man-on-the-street interviews that explore this trend, and ask publishing professionals for their long-range predictions.

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