A Shrinking Audience

The United States and the United Kingdom sold fewer books in 2009 than they did in 2008 according to Nielson BookScan figures. However, other English language markets—such as Australia, Ireland, and South Africa—sold more titles in 2009 than in 2008.

This is sad news for small publishers in the United States.

Book buyers, as a percentage of the U.S. population, dropped below 50 percent for the first time ever in 2008. Despite the rise of ebooks and digital media, we are a country whose book-reading population is on the decline.

When I take my children to the doctor, dentist, sports events and the like, I notice that my children are just about the only ones toting books to read while they wait around for the next activity. Almost all the other children are handling electronic devices such as Nintendo DS systems, iPods, and Smart phones with games. My children sit and read while the other children entertain themselves with electronic media.

No wonder our book-reading population is declining.

Last year, online activities surpassed television as the number one leisure activity among American adults. American adults spent an average of 15 hours a week online. We have become a media-oriented society. Adults don’t model book-reading for their children (either in print or e-reader formats) and they don’t encourage their children to spend as much time reading books as they do playing video games.

Christians are no different from the general population in this respect. We, the people who, throughout history, brought reading and literature to much of the world (so that everyone could have access to and read God’s word for themselves), no longer value reading and training our minds. We have lost our saltiness.

The decline of reading in America has and will continue to affect all publishers, especially small publishers. Small publishers don’t have a lot of clout or resources to promote their books in the English-speaking countries where book buying is increasing; so many will be stuck promoting their books to an ever shrinking group of readers.

I wish I had better news, but I don’t. The handwriting is on the wall, if we can pry our minds away from our computer screens to read it.


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2 thoughts on “A Shrinking Audience

  1. Ironic and depressing given our Jewish/Christian heritage as the people of the book. Although surely (and again ironically) the ease of social networking and marketing created by electronic media means that small publishers can make more of an impact than before?

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  2. I do believe that as electronic media grows, small publishers will be able to have the same reach to the English speaking countries where more books are purchased. eBooks are still such a small percentage of overall books sales, albeit one that is rapidly growing.

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