New Rncertainties in Publishing
Impact of Inflation-Recession on Book Brsiness
Book publishing, like many other businesses, faces “a year of crisis” in 1975. Publishers, caught in the current inflation-recession and hard hit by high interest rates and printing, binding, shipping and storage costs, have been forced to raise the price of their books, cut back on the number published, lay off employees and reduce payments to authors. But higher book prices have led to lower sales and large inventories of unsold books which must be remaindered—discounted to a fraction of their original price—stored or destroyed.
Industry optimists suggest that the gloom may be exaggerated. They point out that during the depression 1930s, many Americans gave up their more expensive leisure pursuits and turned to reading. Book sales remained relatively strong during that period. Others, however, are convinced that the book-buying public will turn to television or free lending libraries if the economy does not improve or if the price of books, up 10 per cent in the past year, does not come down. They also note that there was no inflation after the 1929 crash and that book prices remained relatively low in the 1930s.
The present economic downturn has hurt the two major book categories, trade (books sold primarily through stores) and education (books used in the schools and reference books). Particularly hard hit has been general hardcover fiction for adults and juveniles. Non-fiction hardcover sales, except for a few Watergate-related books and other best-sellers, have also shown some decline. Individual buyers are resisting these high-priced books or waiting until they are published in paperback, and libraries have been forced to cut back on their annual purchases. Library purchases have been running at about $448 million a year, according to trade sources.