I don’t think my actual reading speed is slow, but I don’t get through anywhere near as many books as some of the avid readers I’ve come across. Maybe I’m unusual, but I like to savour books. I don’t want the good ones to end, so I tend not to whip through them in a couple of days. I’ve never read a book in one sitting. But the main reason is I simply don’t have the time or the energy. Other things often get in the way of sustained reading, and my eyes just won’t stay open for that long at night after a typical exhausting day. I know a number of people who consistently get through several books a week. I’m afraid my average would be several weeks per book.
Of course, it’s not a competition, but I sometimes wonder about all the great books I’ll probably never get to read. Is that true of everyone? Even the most voracious reader can only skim the surface of the massive depths of published books.
Here are some staggering facts about the number of books being published. As reported in the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, Bowker’s “Books in Print” (which despite the name includes eBooks) estimates that the total number of books in print in English in 2013 hit 28 million. That’s right, 28 million! The report also states this involves approximately 9 million authors.
These figures calculated by Bowker are based on all the titles with ISBNs in the US, UK, Australia. What’s scary is that, in my view, this means the actual number is probably significantly higher. The Bowker calculation doesn’t cover all the English language publishing in the world in 2013. I’m not sure whether Bowker have extrapolated their figures, but clearly when you consider all the other English-publishing countries (such as Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India) en masse, it suggests Bowker’s figures may be conservative. For example, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce has estimated that India is the world’s 3rd largest English language publisher.
There is another factor which may mean that Bowker’s 28 million estimate is probably too low. For books sold exclusively through Amazon’s Kindle store, you don’t need an ISBN – all that’s required is an Amazon-assigned ASIN number. Given the size of Amazon and its self-publishing program, this means a significant number of books haven’t been accounted for if only ISBNs were tallied.
And it’s not like this figure remains static. The pile of world books sitting next to our collective beds continues to grow each year. Again, according to a Bowker report, in 2013 in the United States alone, around 390,000 new ISBNs were taken by the self-published authors and 300,000 by the traditional publishers.
Does that make you feel better or worse about the books you haven’t read?