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Organization of the Book Industry

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The book publishing industry can be divided into three segments: publishers, distributors, and retailers.

The publishing segment consists of the 2000 or so establishments that transform manuscripts submitted by authors into books that are sought by readers. Every year these companies will publish 50,000-55,000 new titles. Book publishing is a highly segmented industry. Publishers have developed a classification system for the industry based upon the market that is served.

Only a few kinds of publishers (subscription books, book clubs, mail order) sell their books directly to readers. Most books go to wholesalers and jobbers who, in turn, distribute them to retail and other outlets. There are about fifteen to twenty major wholesalers or jobbers across the country, and these companies usually stock large inventories of trade and/or textbooks. In the mass market paperback field, there are three channels of distribution. National distributors usually distribute both magazines and paperback books. Most national distributors also act as a link between publishers and independent wholesalers (IDs). IDs operate in special geographical areas and are locally owned. There were about 120 independent wholesalers in operation in 1991. The third distribution channel for paperbacks is jobbers. Jobbers service wide geo­graphical areas and differ from independent wholesalers in that jobbers usually do not handle magazines or have their own fleet of delivery trucks.

There are more than 20,000 bookstores in the United States, along with about 200,000 drugstores, supermarkets, airports, and specialty shops where books are also sold. Overall, however, there are five main channels through which books get to the consumer. General retailers include bookstores, book sections in department stores, newsstands, book racks in supermarkets and drugstores, specialty stores, and many others. In recent years, large chain bookstores, usually located in shopping malls, have become more prevalent. Chains sell about 40 percent of all books sold in the U.S. The newest trend in retailing is the "superstore" which stocks an abundance of titles covering a wide range of topics. College bookstores are the principal means of selling books in higher education. Of course, these bookstores also sell many noneducational books as well. The third channel, libraries, includes public, university, and special research libraries. There are approximately 30,000 of these nationwide. Schools and institutions comprise local school systems, book depositories, classrooms, resource centers, and related facilities. The last channel, direct to consumer, includes publishers who directly market to the consumer by mail, telephone, or face to face.


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