It's safe to say that e-books disrupted the publishing industry. But sales have leveled off and not entirely for the reasons some have reported. Sales of e-books from the major publishers are down, but that doesn't mean that people are turning back to print books as some recent reports have suggested. In fact, some self-published authors argue the e-book share of the market is growing. NPR's Lynn Neary takes a look at who, if anyone, is actually winning in the battle between digital and print.
When the e-book market started taking off, the publishing industry was worried. I think worry is a nice way of putting it. There was near hysteria in the publishing industry. When digital reading devices became popular around , the e-book market skyrocketed. For several years in a row, e-book sales increased by triple digits. Vlahos says everyone in the business was convinced print books would go the way of CDs. Then a couple of years ago, the market began leveling. And last month when the American Association of Publishers released revenue figures for the first 5 months of this year showing that e-book sales were down by 10 percent, Vlahos says some welcomed the news.
The most voracious readers are now - they're really reading in multiformat. And I think it took a while for that to settle down. And I think now that it's settling down, I think there is probably a little bit of relief just that it's becoming a slightly more predictable market. But a lot of people in the book business simply shrugged when they saw the most recent figures. And they were surprised by a New York Times report that saw the decline in e-book sales as a good thing for the industry.
Some people took those numbers as a great thing that print wasn't going away. Well, we've known for a long time that print isn't going away. Publishers, says Allen, don't really care what kind of book people are choosing to read as long as they are buying books. That is, they want to sell what people want to buy in the way people want to buy them. And that's why they publish hardbacks and they publish paperbacks and they publish e-books and they develop audio.
To understand what's happening in e-book sales, you have to look at the whole market, says Michael Cader, founder of Publishers Marketplace, a widely read online industry newsletter. Not only did e-book revenues decline. Hardcovers were down 11 percent as well. Cader says both sectors were hurt by the fact that there were no big blockbusters in the first half of the year, no "Fifty Shades Of Grey" or "Hunger Games" to boost overall sales. And, Cader says, there was another factor that affected e-book sales. If you read the publishers' dollar sales are down, that doesn't necessarily mean that people have turned their backs on e-books and they're not reading them.
Nicolas Jenson , an outstanding typographer who perfected the roman typeface in , and Aldus Manutius , the greatest printer-publisher of his time. Aldus began printing in with a series of Greek texts. Beginning in and continuing with six titles a year for the next five years, he issued a series of Latin texts that were models of scholarship and elegance. To keep down the cost, Aldus printed editions of 1,, instead of the more usual ; and to fill the page economically, he used an italic type designed for him by Francesco Griffo.
The Aldine editions were widely copied, by pirating i. The way in which printing came to France is of special interest because it shows a publisher rather than a printer-publisher in command from the start. In Paris in , the rector and librarian of the Sorbonne invited three German printers to set up a press on university premises. The scholars chose the books and supervised the printing, even to specifying the type. Their preference for roman type greatly helped the eventual defeat of black-letter, or Gothic, type. After , when the full force of the Renaissance began to be felt in France, a brilliant group of scholarly printers, including Josse Bade, Geoffroy Tory , and the Estienne Stephanus family, who published without a break for five generations — , carried France into the lead in European book production and consolidated the Aldine type of book—compact, inexpensive, and printed in roman and italic types.
The golden age of French typography is usually placed in the reign of Francis I —47 , one of the few monarchs ever to take a keen personal interest in printing. He was the patron and friend of Robert Estienne. In he ordered Estienne to give a copy of every Greek book he printed to the royal library, thus founding the first copyright library. In he laid down a code for printers, which included a prohibition on the use of any device that could be confused with another.
Outside Paris, the only significant centre of printing in France was Lyon. While Paris was under the watchful eye of the predominantly Roman Catholic theologians at the Sorbonne, Lyon was able to publish humanist and Protestant works more freely. By about , however, religious pressure and the competition of Paris had put an end to printing in Lyon. Thereafter, the French book trade was based entirely in Paris.
Other parts of Europe established presses quickly; e. In Spain the German connection is particularly evident. The first Spanish press was set up in at Valencia, where the German trading company of Ravensburg had an important base. Spain quickly evolved its own distinctive style of book, full of dignity and printed largely in black-letter types. Editorial work was begun in , the six volumes were printed in —17, and the book finally was issued in or In Lisbon, the first printed book was a Pentateuch the first five books of the Bible produced in by Eliezer Toledano; he was reinforced in by two printers summoned by the Queen of Portugal.
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From Spain, printing crossed the Atlantic during this early period. In Juan Cromberger of Sevilla, whose father, Jacob, had set up a press there in , secured the privilege for printing in Mexico and sent over one of his men, Juan Pablos. Compared with the Continent, England in the early days of printing was somewhat backward. Printing only reached England in , and in there were still only five printers working in England, all in London and all foreigners.
Type seems to have been largely imported from the Continent until about , and paper until about except for a brief spell during — In an Act of to restrict aliens engaging in trade in England, Richard III deliberately exempted all aliens connected with the book trade in order to encourage its domestic development. In the following year, Henry VII appointed a foreigner, Peter Actors of Savoy, as royal stationer, with complete freedom to import books.
For about 40 years, England was a profitable field for continental printers and their agents.
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This necessary free trade was brought to an end and native stationers protected under Henry VIII , whose acts of , , and imposed regulations on foreign craftsmen and finally prohibited the free importation of books. It has been estimated that up to two-thirds of those employed in the book trade in England were foreigners. It is thus all the more remarkable that the man who introduced printing to England was a native, William Caxton.
After learning to print at Cologne —72 , Caxton set up a press at Bruges about , where he had long been established in business. His first book, The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye , was his own translation from the French, and its production was probably the main reason why this semiretired merchant gentleman took to printing at the age of Caxton is important not so much as a printer he was not a very good one but because from the first he published in English instead of Latin and so helped to shape the language at a time when it was still in flux.
Of the odd books he printed, 74 were in English, of which 22 were his own translations. In the absence of court connections and also because he was a shrewd businessman, he relied less on the production of expensive books for the rich and more on a wide variety of religious books, grammars and other schoolbooks, and collections of popular tales. The best of the early printers was Richard Pynson of Normandy, who began printing in and became printer to the king in Pynson, the first to use roman type in England , published the first English book on arithmetic After his early liturgies and some fine illustrated books, he concentrated mainly on legal works.
Although 15th-century printers characteristically were content to exploit the existing book format, their use of printed illustrations in fact produced a new means of expression. Printers used woodcuts to print illustrations by the relief process and experimented with intaglio in copper engravings.
Woodcut pictures were produced before metal types, and it was a simple development to make woodcuts in appropriate dimensions for use with type to print illustrated books. Albrecht Pfister of Bamberg was printing books illustrated with woodcuts about Copper engravings , which were better able to produce fine lines, were especially suitable for the reproduction of maps; among the few incunabula illustrated with engravings is a Ptolemy Geographia printed at Rome by Arnoldus Buckinck in But because engravings required a different press and introduced a separate process into printing, and because experiments with woodcut illustrations were so satisfactory, there was no extensive use of engravings before Once a picture was prepared for printing, it could be repeated an indefinite number of times with little loss in detail, accuracy, form, or original vigour.
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili , printed by Aldus Manutius in , is a monument to the early perfection of the woodcut and to book illustration in general. Equally as important as the reproduction of great art was the opportunity that printed illustrations offered for the faithful reproduction of pictures and diagrams in scientific books. The dawning scientific scholarship profited from the development of printed illustration; it is significant that studies in both anatomy, with its need for precise illustration of the human body , and cartography greatly expanded after development of printed illustrations.
The book trade during this early period showed enormous vitality and variety. Competition was fierce and unscrupulous. Publishing companies, which both financed and guided the printing enterprise, were also tried, as at Milan in and at Perugia in Publishers were not slow to promote their books. The medieval scribes had placed their names, the date when they finished their labours, and perhaps a prayer or a note on the book, at the end of their codices. By about , the information of the colophon began to appear at the front of the book as a title page, along with the title itself and the name of the author.
Distribution of books along the trade routes, with their courier services, appears to have been highly effective. Another effective channel for the distribution of books was the regular trade fairs, especially those at Frankfurt and at Stourbridge in England. Early publishing had a profound effect on national languages and literatures—it began at once to create, standardize, and preserve them.
The early printing of great vernacular works, such as those of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio in Italy, or a vernacular Bible, such as that of Luther in Germany, gave many languages their standard modern form. The French language owes much to the early printer-publisher Robert Estienne , who is known not only for his typographical innovations of the s but also for his dictionaries. His work in the latter field caused him to be known as the father of French lexicography. Up to , about three-quarters of all printing was in Latin, but thereafter that proportion steadily declined as books appeared in the vernacular and reached an ever-widening public.
The church at first had every reason to welcome printing. The church had always exercised censorship over written matter, especially through the universities in the late Middle Ages. As the works of the reformers swelled in volume and tone, this censorship became increasingly harsh. The Inquisition was restored, and it was decreed in that no book might be printed or sold without permission from the church. Lists of banned books were drawn up, and the first general Index Librorum Prohibitorum Index of Forbidden Books was issued in Dutch printers in particular suffered under the Inquisition and a number went to the stake for publishing Protestant books.
To avoid such a fate, some resorted to the fake imprint, putting a fictitious printer or place of publication on the title page, or omitting that information. Censorship also began to be exercised in varying degrees by individual rulers, especially in England, where church and state had been united under Henry VIII after his defection from Rome.
The Tudors , with little right under common law , arrogated to themselves authority to control the press. After about , endless proclamations were issued against heretical or seditious books. Since its formation in from the old fraternities of scriveners, limners, bookbinders, and stationers, it had sought to protect its members and regulate competition. Its first application for a royal charter in seems to have gone unheeded; but in , an important date in the English book trade, the interests of the crown then the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor , which wanted a ready instrument of control, coincided with those of the company under a Roman Catholic first Master , and it was granted a charter that gave it a virtual monopoly.
Thereafter, only those who were members of the company or who otherwise had special privileges or patents might print matter for sale in the kingdom. Under the system of royal privileges begun by Henry VIII, a printer was sometimes given the sole right to print and sell a particular book or class of books for a specified number of years, to enable him to recoup his outlay.
As the beginning of a system of copyright, this procedure was an admirable development; but the grip that the company obtained and its self-interested subservience to authority were to stunt the free growth of the English book trade for the next years. From the midth through the 18th century, there were virtually no technical changes in the methods of book production, but the organization of the trade moved gradually toward its modern form.
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The key functions of publishing, selecting the material to be printed and bearing the financial risk of its production, shifted from the printer to the bookseller and from him to the publisher in his own right; the author, too, at last came into his own. The battle with the censor became increasingly fierce before any measure of freedom of the press was allowed.
Literacy grew steadily and the book trade expanded, both within and beyond national boundaries. After , the lead in book publishing passed for a time to the Netherlands. The business founded at Antwerp in by Christophe Plantin , a Frenchman by birth, came to dominate the Roman Catholic south of the country, both in quantity and in quality. In the Protestant north, the house of Elzevir occupied a similar position.
After its founding by Louis Elzevir, who issued his first book in , its publishing endeavours were extended by succeeding generations to The Hague, Utrecht, and Amsterdam, with varying fortunes. A duodecimo small-format series of classical Latin texts that the Elzevirs began issuing in more than matched the earlier Aldine editions in excellence at a reasonable standard price.
The Dutch, as great seafarers, were preeminent publishers of atlases , a word that was first used when the maps of Gerardus Mercator were published by his son, Rumold, in The high skill of Dutch engravers also went into their emblem books books of symbolic pictures with accompanying verse , for which there was a considerable demand between and In France, as the monarchy reasserted its authority after the wars of religion, publishing, which was already heavily concentrated in Paris, became increasingly centralized. This national press established and continued to maintain a standard of excellence for book production in France.
Louis XIII also tried to regulate the trade in books. By an ordinance of , a body called the Chambre des Syndicats was established. The power of censorship, though it remained for a time with the Sorbonne, also passed eventually to officials of the crown. Under these conditions, publishers were inclined to exercise caution; as in other strictly regulated areas, more controversial works first appeared outside the country often in Holland or Geneva or under a false imprint.
But French books fully upheld the influence of French taste in Europe. Beaumarchais bought the printing equipment especially for the purpose from the widow of the great English typographer John Baskerville. After the Reformation, the intellectual life of Germany was predominantly Protestant and the book trade almost entirely so. Through its book fairs, Frankfurt had become the centre of German publishing and even a kind of European clearinghouse.
In , however, the fair came under the supervision of the imperial censorship commission Frankfurt being a free imperial city , and this action gradually killed it. After about , though Frankfurt continued to be important for the production of type and illustrated books, the centre of the trade shifted decisively to Leipzig. There, an enlightened government and a celebrated university favoured cultural life and patronized book publishing.
Two Leipzig firms dating from the 17th century survive to the present day: Brockhaus in , and that founded by Moritz Georg Weidmann in Unger also published the magnificent translation of Shakespeare by August von Schlegel 8 vol. In the golden age of Elizabeth I , publishing in England was probably at its most turbulent.
Controls were tightened in by a decree of the Star Chamber, which confined printing to London, except for one press each in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. But despite stern measures, the great religious question, in which Elizabeth steered a precarious course between Papists and Puritans, continued to be fought out with secret presses on both sides.
Within the legitimate trade, the booksellers had begun to get the upper hand. The printers had already been driven by high costs to make arrangements with the booksellers, to their own disadvantage. In to still the discontent, some of the rich patentees surrendered a number of copies to the company for the benefit of its poorer members. By , through leasing the patents at its discretion, the company controlled most of the printing offices in London. The benefit to the poor stationers was somewhat marginal and the monopoly and lack of foreign stimulus caused England to lag behind the Continent in standards of production.
For all that, the privileged men were sometimes good publishers; a few even supported authors during their labours. To join this fringe, the would-be publisher had only to get hold of a manuscript, by fair means or foul, enter it as his copy or dispense with the formality , and have it printed. The first Shakespeare play to be published Titus Andronicus , was printed by a notorious pirate, John Danter, who also brought out, anonymously, a defective Romeo and Juliet , largely from shorthand notes made during performance.
Attempts to control the publishing business continued through most of the 17th century. In the Star Chamber issued its most drastic decree, which confirmed previous enactments, laid down detailed licensing procedures, reduced the total number of printers to 23, and prescribed severe penalties for offenses. Four years later, however, the Star Chamber itself was swept away by Parliament, and in the ensuing uncertainty the book trade had a taste of freedom. In it passed an ordinance restoring both licensing and the powers of the company.
It was this act that prompted John Milton to write his Areopagitica , a noble and powerful plea for freedom of the press, which vigorously argued against every claim of justification for censorship. After the Restoration, the Licensing Act of was ruthlessly enforced until after the Great Plague of —65, when its rigours were mitigated; it lapsed in James II revived licensing in , but Parliament refused to renew it in Thereafter, restraint, harassment, and persecution continued, but by other means, under a broad interpretation of the meaning of libel.
In the latter part of the 17th century, publishing expanded rapidly, partly through the rise of the periodical press see below Magazine publishing , with its growing body of writers and readers. Patronage continued, with all its political implications; but dedications became increasingly cut-and-dried, costing five guineas for a poem, perhaps, or 20 for a play; royalty was naturally expected to pay more.
In its place came the public at large, to whom Henry Fielding dedicated his satirical piece for the theatre, The Historical Register for the Year , on its publication in the following year. In the expanding literary market, the enterprising publisher tried to collect all the most promising authors to write for him.
Through his personal inclinations, his sense of public taste, and his readiness to risk novelty, he began to play a part of his own in the course of literary development. As this side of the business absorbed more and more of his energies, the final separation of publisher and bookseller came about, though never so decisively as that between bookseller and printer.
In Britain this transition was marked—and fostered—by the passing of the Copyright Act of , the first of its kind in any country. The Copyright Act of , like all subsequent measures, tried to strike a balance between the needs of those who make a living from books—writers, printers, and publishers—and the interests of the reading public, which are far from identical; it tried, in other words, to limit privilege as well as piracy. The terms it set were amended when they came to be regarded as too short; but in setting any term at all, and in focusing attention on the author as prime producer, it was revolutionary.
At mid-century the best-known figure in the trade was Robert Dodsley , the footman-poet who was befriended by Pope. He is credited with suggesting the idea of the Dictionary to Dr. Such cooperative associations were popular as a means of financing longer works. They were known as congers and developed into a system of shares in individual books, which could be bought and sold at will.
During the 18th century, the book trade in the American colonies began to flourish. Printing had begun there in , when the first printers, Stephen Day also spelled Daye and his two sons, left Cambridge, Eng. In the early years of the Colonies, Cambridge, Mass. Gradually others followed—Philadelphia had a press in ; New York City , in It was difficult for the colonial printer, as for any small printer, to produce large works because of a shortage of type; but patronage by the government helped to give his products a dignified style.
Almanacs, primers, and law books were the staples of book production; works of theology formed the leading category. Until American printers bought their presses from England, but thereafter they acquired their equipment and supplies, including ink and paper, domestically. Books were sold in various ways—by subscription, by the printer himself, by hawkers, and through shopkeepers. Though Massachusetts passed a law against hawkers in , it carefully excluded book peddlers, who had a valuable function in rural areas.
The first bookseller seems to have been Hezekiah Usher of Boston, who added books to his general merchandise in about The great increase in available reading matter after about both resulted from and promoted the spread of education to the middle classes, especially to women. The wider readership is reflected among the middle classes by the rich development of the prose novel in the 18th century and, among the less well-to-do, by the large sales of almanacs and chapbooks. Growth in the book trade led naturally to growth in libraries.
Later, Acts of Parliament required the delivery of copies of every book to a varying number of libraries, the most important being the library of the British Museum , founded in This idea of a definitive collection was adopted elsewhere; e. In the 18th century a characteristic development was the commercial lending library, and in the 19th the free public library. Despite the fears of publishers and booksellers that the availability of books in library collections would discourage people from purchasing copies for their own use, circulating libraries have promoted rather than diminished the sale of books, besides being a steady market in themselves.
From the 18th century censorship in most Western countries diminished. It was abolished in Sweden in , in Denmark in , and in Germany in The clearest statement, to which lip service, at least, is now almost universally paid, came from the French National Assembly in This was also the case in Britain after the lapsing of the Licensing Act in ; but two important steps had yet to be taken: Subsequent efforts to suppress printed matter have centred on questions of libel, obscenity, or national security. In the 19th century a whole new era in publishing began.
A series of technical developments, in the book trade as in other industries , dramatically raised output and lowered costs. Stereotyping , the iron press, the application of steam power, mechanical typecasting and typesetting, new methods of reproducing illustrations—these inventions, developed through the century and often resisted by the printer, amounted to a revolution in book production.
Paper, made by hand up to , formed more than 20 percent of the cost of a book in ; by it had fallen to a little more than 7 percent. Bindings , too, became less expensive. After cloth cases began to be used in place of leather, and increasingly the publisher issued his books already bound.
Previously, he had done so only with less expensive books; the bindings of others had been left to the bookseller or private buyer. In Europe and America, expansion and competition were the essence of the century, and the book trade had a full share of both. While the population of Europe doubled, that of the United States increased fifteenfold. Improved means of communication led to wider distribution, and a thirst for self-improvement and entertainment greatly expanded readership, leading to a rapid growth in every category of book from the scholarly to the juvenile.
The interplay of technical innovation and social change was never closer. As the development of the railways encouraged people to travel, a demand arose for reading material to lessen the tedium of the long journeys. The only victim in the book trade was design, part of the price that was paid almost universally in the first phase of machine production.
Publishing was now well established, with its characteristic blend of commerce and idealism. Their tendency to specialize made French and German publishers more vulnerable to change than their British colleagues, who aimed as a rule at greater flexibility. Literary and intellectual currents were flowing strongly and the number of new books rose by leaps and bounds. Rough figures for Britain indicate new titles per year up to about , rising to by , and to 6, before the end of the century.
By the s the application of the new techniques of mass production had brought down the price of an inexpensive reprint to one shilling, as in the Railway Library of novels George Routledge, 1, vol. Bohn in , , and Later reprints were cheaper still.
On the Continent, two German series were outstanding. The Tauchnitz Collection of British and American Authors — became known to thousands of travelers. Tauchnitz voluntarily paid royalties and forbade the sale of his editions in Britain. Even more successful was Reclams Universal-Bibliothek, begun in An important factor in this series, as in others later, was the release of works through the expiration of copyright.
Although American literature put down strong roots during the 19th century, piracy from Britain rose to great heights. There was sharp competition to be the first to secure proofs of any important new book. In the absence of international copyright agreements, the British author usually received nothing, but there were honourable exceptions; Harper Brothers, for instance, paid considerable royalties to Charles Dickens and Thomas Macaulay, among others.
There was also at least one famous case of piracy in reverse. Though it can be argued by some people that piracy is not only inevitable but possibly even desirable for the sake of cultural diffusion in some circumstances, the availability of inexpensive foreign books, if prolonged as it almost certainly was in the United States, can damage the prospects for home-produced literature. Though there were some household names, such as Washington Irving , James Fenimore Cooper , Ralph Waldo Emerson , and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , American writers in general had a lean time; and the strong development of the magazine short story and the lecture tour in the United States has been attributed in part to their difficulties.
Toward the end of the century American publishing was further enriched by translations of many foreign works, as a result of the flood of immigrants into New York City. While 19th-century publishing was competitive and individualistic, its growing volume pointed increasingly to the need for greater organization. A major problem, once booksellers had become distinct from publishers, was suicidal price-cutting in the retail trade. Though price regulation ran counter to accepted notions of free competition and met with fierce opposition, in the general interest of the industry it was inevitable.
Like copyright, it helped to provide a firm structure within which fair prices could be calculated. In England, a first attempt to introduce the net price principle by the booksellers in the s was condemned to failure by the Free Traders; but toward the end of the century some publishers, led by Alexander Macmillan, began to replace the variable discounts by fixed prices. To press for the new system, the Associated Booksellers of Great Britain and Ireland was formed in , and the Publishers Association was created in These two organizations then worked out the Net Book Agreement , primarily through the efforts of Frederick later Sir Frederick Macmillan.
The principle has since been generally adopted, although only to a limited extent in the United States. The trade also became better organized in the provision of comprehensive catalogs of current books. These began as early as the twice-yearly book fairs at Frankfurt first catalog and Leipzig first catalog So great was the value of the Frankfurt catalog that an English edition was published in — Copyright, too, underwent considerable development. The United States first enacted legislation in , France in , and Germany in Moves toward an international code began in in Denmark.
They took the form of reciprocal treaty arrangements between individual countries by which foreign authors received the same protection as did native authors. Britain joined the movement in several arrangements between and In a uniform international system of copyright was initiated by the Berne Convention.
Most countries subscribed to the Convention, but not the United States or Russia. The United States continued to protect its domestic printing industry up to , when it joined the Universal Copyright Convention Unesco Thus the United States was able to enter into an international agreement without the necessity of immediately revising its own copyright law.
Since the Universal Convention contained a provision that the Convention would not be applicable between any two countries that belonged to the Berne Union, it served primarily as a treaty between the United States and the countries that recognized international copyright. The Soviet Union became a party to the Berne Convention in In the 20th century, the effects of state education in the more advanced countries became increasingly apparent. Standards of living rose, and, as in earlier times, these two conditions brought increased use and publication of books.
During the late s and early s, many new publishing houses were founded. In the industrialized countries, though wages were rising, a small business could be staffed economically, and printing costs were such that it was economically feasible to print as few as 1, copies of a new book.
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It was thus comparatively easy to make a start, especially because the long-term credit that printers were prepared to grant made a minimum of capital necessary. Book publishing grew to a substantial industry, consisting mostly of small units in the Western world but also embracing a number of large concerns, many of which were public corporations employing staffs of 1, or more. Specialization became frequent, particularly in educational books , as the needs of the new school populations were realized. Some companies, such as Macmillan, in both its British and American houses, had begun to issue schoolbooks almost by chance; then, as their sales grew most profitably, they developed separate departments for school and college textbooks.
Others, such as The American Book Company and Methuen in London, had begun specifically with educational books in mind. For more than one leading London firm, India, despite its high illiteracy rate, began to grow strongly as a market and to repay the care and expense involved in setting up separate Indian branches. A new factor at this time, which was to change the financial climate for fiction publishers in particular, was the advent of the literary agent.
The first agent began business in , and between and many more appeared. The increased cost made it considerably more difficult to finance the most speculative part of the business, the encouragement of new talent. The system of literary agents began in Britain but spread rapidly to the United States and also to the Continent, though in the latter it did not assume so great an importance.
Keenly resented at first, the literary agent, by pressing for higher payment to authors he represented, may have been indirectly responsible for the greater selling efforts that some publishers began to make early in the century. The discreet sales methods of the 19th century, whereby the sales representative merely showed his samples and the publisher took small spaces in newspapers for the bare announcement of title and author of his new books, were replaced by more forceful techniques. In this effort American publishers took a prominent part. Less hampered by inhibitions over the more blatant forms of salesmanship than their European colleagues, publishing houses in New York City began to take large advertisements, make extravagant claims for the qualities of their books, and thus build up bigger sales for new books than was customary in other countries.
The existence of a prosperous middle class with fast-growing incomes was one factor; the vast spread of the population across the continent was another.
Why The Battle Between E-Books And Print May Be Over
These factors, combined with the development of the railroad, led to the successful development of mail-order advertising and selling. The sale of books, such as works of reference, by subscription was another technique that rapidly developed and grew into a business worth millions of dollars in the United States and elsewhere.
It involved securing an undertaking to buy on installments over many months an already published set of books; it could also be used to secure advance orders for an expensive work, probably in several volumes, that the publisher was planning to issue, as was sometimes done in the 18th century. Continental countries also exploited the method, and considerable use was made of the door-to-door canvasser. The coming of war in naturally had a disrupting, though not wholly destructive, effect upon book publishing in European countries.
Shortage of paper necessitated rationing to two-thirds of prewar consumption in the case of Britain, while from hundreds of thousands of those in the armed forces came a tremendous demand for light reading. Although at one time the cost of paper rose to eight times its prewar level, sales of books increased sharply. The extra quantities could be supplied only at the expense of quality, and the standards of paper and binding were appalling. It would have been disastrous for a publisher to be left with large stocks of these books since paper supplies quickly returned to normal after the war, and the poorly produced books became unsalable.
Of continental countries, Germany suffered the worst shortages, though the principal publishers were able to stay in business; in many respects a worse ordeal awaited them in the postwar inflation. An immediate aftereffect of the war in Europe was a sharp reduction in the purchasing power of the middle class. Whereas before, in most European countries, a proportion of the educated and professional classes bought new books regularly, high taxation, inflation, and trade depression in the postwar years cut down on spare money. Those publishers who continued to cater only to that public found it increasingly difficult to trade profitably, and many went out of business or were absorbed into larger firms.
In the United States, on the other hand, boom conditions in the postwar years produced a still more prosperous and enlarged middle class ready to absorb an increasing supply of books. The number of publishing houses grew; and more American authors, such as Sinclair Lewis and Ernest Hemingway , found a world market. British and continental publishers turned more readily than before to New York City in search of fresh talent.
Universities also increased in number more rapidly in the United States than elsewhere, producing a larger demand for college textbooks. Publishing them became an immensely important part of the business for many U. A new development of vast potential at this time was the book club, an association of members who undertook to purchase, usually each month, a book selected for them by a committee, the advantage being that the book in question was supplied at a lower price than that at which it could be bought in a bookshop.
The scheme, of which an early forerunner was the Swiss Co-operative Movement in about , had obvious attractions for the part of the reading public that had no direct access to a bookseller. The pioneer Book-of-the-Month Club in America developed a membership that ran into hundreds of thousands, followed by The Literary Guild, its great rival, and specialized book clubs that covered a variety of special reader interests. These clubs were strongly opposed at first by both publishers and booksellers, who disliked the additional emphasis placed upon the potential best-seller, but they came to supply a genuine need.
They also helped to offset the enormous amount of book borrowing from libraries. From the s onward, however, their popularity was somewhat affected by the availability of inexpensive paperbound books sold in thousands of outlets outside the regular book channels. As noted above, machine production had lowered standards of design.
The English designer William Morris and his Kelmscott Press, however, had begun to work for better typography and book design in the s; and his example had led to the establishment of other private presses, such as The Doves Press and the Ashendene Press, which produced editions usually limited of exceptional beauty, printed on handmade paper.
Though aimed essentially at the collector and issued at high prices, such books began to influence the more discerning publisher; and by the s a few firms, such as Alfred Knopf in New York City, Chatto and Windus and Jonathan Cape in London, and the Insel Verlag in Leipzig, were seen to be far ahead of their competitors in their standards of design. With careful planning, skillful selection of typeface, and provision of layouts to guide the printer, more and more publishers managed to achieve typographically handsome books at a commercial price.
These efforts were part of the Design in Industry movement, which sought to demonstrate that mass production need not preclude beauty. It should be noted, however, that responsibility for design was passing from the printer to the publisher; as the former, with the growth of his business, became more the industrialist and less the craftsman, the latter realized that he must himself take charge of this aspect of the book.
The great trade slump that began in October brought a swift decline in the prosperity of American publishing. By British publishers could no longer depend upon selling a high proportion of their books to the United States, either in the form of physical copies or by way of a contract conceding the U. Though the book trade of Europe proved a little more resilient than some other industries, it passed through a difficult period. Sales declined, profits were negligible, and there were many bankruptcies.
Attempts were made to find new outlets for books and fresh ways to attract the public to them. The Germans continued to hold their annual Book Fair in Leipzig, but this was primarily a trade function. Some British newspapers, striving for higher circulation, approached publishers to supply them with huge numbers of their popular books, specially printed, to be given away or sold very cheaply in exchange for coupons from the papers.
Booksellers resented the practice, but for hard-pressed publishers it was financially attractive. In the rather desperate climate of the times, some publishers also spent inordinate amounts on newspaper advertising. Reprint book clubs proliferated too, again to the benefit of the few publishers and authors fortunate enough to secure a choice. In a valuable innovation that stimulated sales was the Book Token, a form of gift certificate. The invention of an English publisher, Harold Raymond, the Book Token could be exchanged for a book of specified value at any participating bookshop.
It was at first opposed by many booksellers; but it went on to become a major factor in Christmas sales, and the system was adopted in other countries and by other trades. Even in the depressed conditions, publishers still dreamed of tapping a wider readership. This began to become a reality in , when Allen Lane launched his pioneer Penguin series of paperbacks. It was a risky operation, involving speculatively high initial printings to keep down the unit cost. But, despite the strongly held belief that paperbacks would not appeal outside the Continent, where they had sold freely, and the resistance of booksellers, who feared a sharp reduction in their receipts, the new series quickly caught on.
They represented remarkable value at the original price of sixpence, equivalent to the cost of a small item in a variety store. Though printed on cheap paper, the books employed good typography—far superior to that of any earlier attempts at paperbacks—and the original cover design was attractive in the bold simplicity of its orange and white stripes. Nazi persecution of the Jews in the immediate prewar years and the impact of the war itself caused a wave of emigration, from Germany and Austria in particular, which brought fresh publishing talent to both Britain and the United States as well as to other countries, including Australia.
Some of the striking developments in the production of art books, with beautiful coloured illustrations, were a direct result of this movement, which bore its fullest fruit after the war. The war that in European publishers had feared would utterly destroy their business proved in many respects less terrible in its effects on books than had been imagined.
While the destruction of buildings, plants, and vast stocks of books, most notably in London and later in Leipzig, brought publishing to a standstill for individual firms, the activity as a whole continued. As in but to an even greater extent, the demand for reading matter for both instruction and entertainment grew enormously. The nature of the war, with its long periods of waiting alternating with intense bouts of frenzied activity, both induced the need and provided the opportunity for reading.
The occupied countries of Europe endured censorship and a tight control of materials; but most publishers survived and were swift to renew contacts with colleagues in London and New York City immediately after the war. In the United States, though they were subject to some shortages and inconvenience, publishers were comparatively untouched by the war, and their business expanded rapidly.
By closer setting of type and the use of much thinner paper, the ration was stretched to produce the maximum number of copies, but the final appearance of British books inevitably suffered, and they began to compare very unfavourably with those produced in the United States. In countries that suffered severe paper shortage there was, of course, a sharp reduction in the number of new books and in the size of editions; consequently, with the increase in demand, the available books were rapidly sold out. The result was an enormous, if illusory, increase of profitability for publishers; and despite heavy wartime taxation they found themselves in far better shape financially than ever before.
Instead of holding large and often very slow-selling stocks with insufficient cash resources, publishers had little stock but ample cash. There was, too, the marginal advantage that those new authors who were able to secure publication in the war years could be virtually certain that their books would be quickly sold out. In these artificial conditions, many publishers were more prepared to risk the work of an untried author. After the war it took about five years for paper to become reasonably plentiful again.
Despite the disruption brought by the war, however, interest in books had increased enormously, and sales were furthered by the total disappearance or severe rationing in most of the warring countries of so many consumer articles that normally compete with books. Contrary to the fears of many publishers, a new reading public was emerging, and it was not lost in the postwar world. After the end of the war, there was an awkward year or so of reorganization and anticlimax, when many wartime publications suddenly became unsalable; but then publishing, in almost every country, once more expanded rapidly.
People who had been cut off entirely from the rest of the world displayed an immense hunger for the books that had appeared during the previous six years. Much new business developed in the sale of the actual books and in translation rights. Such conditions continued at a higher level than they had attained in the s, and they were to be further stimulated with the rise of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Social change came to many countries, bringing a broader spread of purchasing power and above all wider educational opportunity for much of the population.
The change was to set book publishing upon a bolder and more adventurous course, turning it from a minor industry into one of sufficient growth and profitability to attract professional investors. A feature of the early postwar years was the remarkable phoenixlike rise of the German book trade, literally from the ashes of the Allied air raids, which had destroyed the principal cities with their publishing offices and printing works. Because Leipzig was in the Soviet-controlled zone of Germany, however, the centre of the trade moved to Frankfurt for the first time since about As part of its drive to become the commercial capital of West Germany , Frankfurt developed its exhibition facilities rapidly.
Thus, the book trade fair had ideal conditions in which to thrive. Before it had been largely a domestic affair at which German publishers displayed their new works to booksellers, with only a small number of foreign publishers participating and those almost entirely continental; but it steadily grew to be the greatest meeting place for publishers from throughout the world. In the nations that formed the Soviet bloc following World War II, publishing was subjected to a state control similar to that initiated in Soviet Russia in Very few of the famous publishing houses of Poland and Czechoslovakia survived, and the houses that did survive came under the ownership and control of the state.
The normal pattern was for all books on a particular group of subjects to be issued from one publishing house. Thus in Hungary , for example, the principal houses dealt with science, political history, agriculture, music, belles lettres , or military or technical subjects. The organization in Romania was similar; but in East Germany it was significant that many of the prewar firms remained, though all were subject to government control. Besides the economic and social changes that favoured publishing after , an outburst of knowledge, particularly in science and technology, produced many new subjects, many of them highly specialized, all of which called for new books.
At the same time, there was a major advance in printing, a break away from the traditional letterpress system dependent upon lead type. Photocomposition composing of printed matter by photographic means rather than by hand , coupled with offset printing technique, obviated much of the handwork of the earlier methods, improved working speeds, and prevented costs from rising as steeply as they would otherwise have done.
The trend was toward giant machines for mass production , giving a favourable price for cases in which , or more copies were needed. By the early s the paperback revolution was well under way. Growing from the prewar Penguins and spreading to many other firms, paperbacks began to proliferate into well-printed, inexpensive books on every conceivable subject, including a wide range of first-class literature.
Generally known as pocket books on the Continent, they swept the world, converting book borrowers into buyers and creating new book readers on a scale never known before. Their use has been particularly widespread in the developing countries, notably those of Africa. The new paperbacks had remarkable ubiquity, being found not only in bookshops but also in drugstores, street kiosks, and newsstands in railway stations, airports, and hotel lobbies. The low price of the paperback, which moved books for the first time into the area of impulse buying, is due essentially to the large number printed, seldom fewer than 30, and frequently far more, and not, as is often supposed, to the use of paper instead of a hard cover for the binding.
By far the greater number of paperbacks have been reprints of books that have had some success in their original clothbound form. Normally the paperback publisher makes an offer to buy the paperback rights from the publisher of the hardcover edition, and the paperback royalties are shared between the author and the hardcover publisher. While many of the big paperback houses have produced a certain number of new, hitherto unpublished books, the paperback operation is dependent in the main upon books originating with the conventional publishers. It is a fallacy therefore to suppose that, for all their seeming dominance, the paperback is likely to oust the hardcover book.
Another type of paperback, selling in smaller numbers, has sprung from the enormous growth in the number of university students throughout the world. This is the reissue of works of scholarship, science, religion, literature, and art. Many had been out of print for years, and they had often been issued originally in small editions of no more than 2, copies by university presses or other specialized publishers.
The increase in the number of universities was accompanied by an increase in the number of university presses. The purpose of these presses is to serve the needs of scholarship— i. Their freedom from the more acute profit-making pressures, often a result of direct subsidies, coupled with their assured, if limited, market, enables many to reach high standards of production and commercial viability. Some of the older establishments, such as the Oxford University Press, are, of course, large, profitable organizations with worldwide connections and a long list of more general publications.
Another type of publishing house not usually in direct competition with ordinary firms is the state printing office, which is responsible in many countries for issuing public and official material. China developed a similar organization to issue its publications. Every publishing house has manufacturing, marketing, and accounts departments, but the heart of the business lies in the editorial function. This has changed in its mode of operation through the years and still varies from one country to another and between firms but not in essentials.
The editor—who is sometimes called the sponsor and who is often a director—selects the books to be published, deals with the author, and is responsible for the critical reading of the typescript and its revision if necessary and for seeing the book through the press, in consultation with the manufacturing and marketing departments. Besides the editor, there is also an editorial department, which is responsible for the detailed preparation of the typescript before it is printed.
This receives more attention today than in the past. Facts, figures, and references are checked, and inelegancies of style are polished where necessary. Careful attention by a skilled editor at this stage can contribute greatly to the quality of many books. A particular branch of editorial work that has grown to be of cardinal importance since World War II concerns the conception , planning, and publication of the hundreds of books needed for educational programs at every level.
Throughout the world editors specializing in school books visit teachers and lecturers to promote the writing of the required texts. The educational editor must concentrate almost wholly upon the commissioning of books to fit a particular syllabus in a school or university. Rarely, if ever, does the editor receive an unsolicited typescript that can be accepted at once.
The editor must seek material by regular visits, either personally or by an assistant, to schools or colleges to find the teachers who have the makings of authorship. Outlines or drafts of texts are evaluated by editors who develop the central themes into a usable form. Much time must then be spent on revision and production before the book is completed. In the United States the boards of education in some of the larger states review the available textbooks and approve a selection for use in their school districts.
This selection process is called adoption, and publishers compete to have their books adopted for use because of the large volume of sales that are thus guaranteed. The schoolbook that is widely adopted may sell for a generation and reward author and publisher on a scale beyond the dreams of those concerned only with general books. Equally, nothing can fail so completely as the schoolbook that gets no adoptions.
Book publishing depends fundamentally on copyright, which is the sole right to copy or to produce a work, conceded to the publisher by the author through a mutual agreement. Without this element of monopoly, it would be impossible for a publisher to trade. It is also the guarantee for an author that he has legal rights to prevent the use of his material without fair compensation.
On the expiration of copyright, anyone is free to publish the work in question without payment to the author or his heirs. Copyright at one time was simple and indivisible; many alternative forms of text reproduction have developed, however. Their exploitation is governed by individual clauses in the agreement. These subsidiary rights may be briefly summarized.