Monday, July 26, 2010

The Staggering Statistics of New Book Titles

It is with books as it is with men -- a very small number play a great part; the rest are lost in the multitude. - Voltaire

If multitude described the number of books available in the 1700s, I think we need to come out with a new word for the books available today, in all their various formats. I suggest teratude, which, by my own made up definition, means a trillion or so multitudes.

Last Monday I checked Worldometers (world statistics updated in real time) and discovered that there had been 549,284 new book titles published so far this year. Sunday night I checked again—the number increased to 566,188. That’s 16,904 new titles in less than one week’s time. Yikes!

Another surprising statistic according to Worldometers is that the United Kingdom publishes the most titles. The U.S. comes in second. Out of the 78 countries on the list, twenty publish 10,000 or more new book titles per year.

With so many titles to choose from, it boggles my mind that any author is able to sell more than a couple of copies of any one book, no matter how well-written it might be. I am also amazed that some books survive the test of time to become classics. With so many new books covering shelves, it seems that all of the older ones would be delegated to the back shelves and eventually lost for all time.

My bookshelves confirm that somehow not only classics or valuable rare books survive. I have a few books that belonged to my mother and grandmother. They contain advice that is no longer applicable, so their sentimental value is much more than their monetary worth.

For instance, Getting Ready to be a Mother (1922) offers illustrations, such as a photograph displaying a satisfactory maternity corset. There are detailed descriptions on how the new mother must remain in bed for the first week or two, and it stresses the importance of a nurse or other person to help care for the mother and baby six to eight weeks or longer. I don’t know any new mothers afforded this luxury.

A 1932 cookbook For Making Good Things to Eat, extols the virtue of Snowdrift creamy vegetable oil as “better than butter because it is all pure fat,” and “There is more calory (sic) value in snowdrift pound for pound, than in any of the food you cook with it.”

The Modern Method of Preparing Delightful Foods (1927) is a tiny little cookbook by today’s standards, but it devotes an entire chapter to “Napery and its Care,” complete with starching and storing advice.

Through the years pregnancy advice has changed, opinions on fats and calories have been modified, and paper napkins are the norm rather than the exception, still I find a comforting connection to the past when thumbing through these books—and they’re also entertaining.

Have older books survived on your bookshelves? Do they add sentimental or monetary value to your book collection?

Tags: Voltaire, worldometer, snowdrift, napery, corset, new book titles,


Journaling Woman said...

AND can you imagine wanting to read all those books, 549,284?

I love old books. Even if I didn't really like the book, I keep it if it is old.


Mason Canyon said...

I have a few old books, but I don't think anyone in my family before me enjoyed collecting books I like do. They just seemed to enjoy reading them and then passing them on.

Thoughts in Progress

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

That's a LOT of books!

I do have some old books on my shelves. My favorite was my grandmother's book from when she was a child--full of children in flapper outfits. :)

Jenny S. said...

When I was pregnant for the first time, my mom gave me a book she had when she was pregnant. It was very strict about not gaining too much weight during pregnancy, even going so far as to suggest that a pregnant woman should smoke a cigarette instead of giving in to food cravings. Thank goodness that advice is no longer applicable!

The other old books I have are books from my childhood. It's tough to part with those.

Joanne said...

I collect old, illustrated novels and have a small collection. Included are a couple different versions of Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland, Rebecca. The artwork the publishers included in these old editions is just amazing.

Darcia Helle said...

Jane, you raise a great point about how any author manages to sell his or her books. Given these statistics, we should be thrilled that even one reader is able to find us! I often wonder, though, what makes (or made) a classic. We seem to force-feed them to our youth, while they'd much rather be reading Harry Potter or Stephenie Meyer. Maybe those books will be the classics of the future.

Karen Walker said...

I didn't have any older books on my shelves until recently. When my mother-in-law passed, I got a few copies of some old Nancy Drew and Hardy boy books, which I was thrilled about because I loved them as a child.

Carol Kilgore said...

I have some of my mother's books, including some from school. For me, they're priceless.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Teresa, I can’t imagine getting around to reading all the books I have on my shelves and they number a whole lot less than a half-million!

Mason, I think that unless you stay in one place forever, collecting books is very difficult. They are very heavy to move:)

Elizabeth, that sounds like a fun book to look through.

You’re right, Jenny, thank goodness medical science has advanced! I guess one day, future generations will look back at our books on pregnancy and laugh, too.

That sounds like an amazing collection, Joanne, especially because of the illustrations.

Darcia, a few months back I tried to find a definitive answer to what makes a classic, but with little success. I think they are timeless stories that people relate to in every era. It will be interesting to see which books from out generation become classics or if any of them make it.

Karen, what a great windfall! As a child, I loved those books, too.

Carol, I can’t begin to imagine how much text books have changed through the years. I bet they are really run to flip through.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I have a collection of Shakespeare's plays given by my grandmother to her father. It's inscribed 'Christmas, 1908'. It's a treasure. I've also still got my childhood favourites, which were read by my children.

Anonymous said...

I keep seeing this top 100 books of the last 100 years and know I need to check out a fe a the library, which is where I am now. I'll pick up Grapes of Wrath. Saw the movie but necer read the book.

Stephen Tremp

Helen Ginger said...

It just shows you that not all experts are real experts and even those who are real experts are only experts at that particular time, since our knowledge grows and changes.

I love old books!

arlee bird said...

It is amazing that new books have any more than just a few readers. And quality is probably a selling point less often than noteriety.

I have many Doubleday Book Club editions that I got when I was younger on my shelves. Also, I have some of my father's older books. I also have a number of older books still at my mother's house.

Tossing It Out

Patricia Stoltey said...

Somewhere along the line during moves and transitions, I lost track of the old books I'd collected when I was young. One of my favorites was a tattered cookbook that belonged to my grandmother. I also had some old novels such as Girl of the Limberlost. I have no idea what I did with them.

Virginia S Grenier said...

I have a few old books in great condition. My stepmother's mom past away and she had a huge library of books most collectors would die for. My hubby and I being big time readers saved most of them from the trash heap my dad was going to toss them into. We have the complete works of Dickens and Shakespear to name two.

Old books are the best. Now to figure out how to fit in all the new books as well. LOL

DazyDayWriter said...

Definitely -- I love "old books" because in the overall scheme of things, most of them aren't old at all. But, yes, in our ADD society, books more than 10 minutes old can seem dated, no doubt. I opt for sentimental value, because monetary realities are best left to the book experts, I'm assuming. Great post, as usual, Jane, and thanks for helping to keep books alive!
-- Sending sunny wishes from (my blog avatar doesn't show up on blogs that aren't wordpress; not sure why...but one of these days, I'm going to figure it out!)

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Anonymous said...

That is some interesting information about books. It does make you wonder how any book can get noticed in the crowd.

Jan Morrison said...

I feel ill thinking about this. I wish it didn't matter but I think of my great grandparents who considered themselves lucky to have the bible, some Mark Twain and Shakespeare. Oh and Mrs. Beatons I'm sure...
I love my old books. I reread books all the time and have friends who say how can I when there are so many new ones out? And I say - there are lots of new people out too but I choose to spend time with you...

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's a lot of books...

I have an old photography book of my father's and some of it is dated. I also have original copies of Bambi and Bambi's Children. I loved those books as a kid and know they are probably valuable, so they aren't going anywhere!

KarenG said...

I'm coming to this post late but enjoyed it much! I've got one of those old cookbooks too and it's interesting to thumb through and see the cultural changes, like your shortening blurb "more fat than butter" LOL.

As for all the new books coming out constantly...WHEW!! There's so much to say about that I hardly know where to start!

Ann Best said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog today, Friday July 30th. That brought me here.

It IS staggering the number of books published today. I guess we writers keep writing because we can't think of anything else that we want to do. And we hope someone will read/buy our book, of course. We're eternal optimists, all of us, I think.

We all love books. Like you, I treasure those "older" ones. And I love libraries, and bookstores. I do hope the brick and mortar bookstores don't all disappear. I like the advances in technology, but then....

Christina Rodriguez said...

I have a casserole cookbook from the 1960s or 1970s, on permanent loan from my husband's grandfather. The food described therein sounds rather unappetizing, making the cookbook itself a hilarious gem.

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