China and the US make nearly half the world’s books

Talking its way to users.
Talking its way to users.
Image: EPA/Divyakant Solanki
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Two years ago the world’s publishers collectively put out over 1.6 million books. About half of them came from just two countries.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) is a non-profit based in Geneva that studies and promotes global book publishing. Each year the association releases its global publishing stats, and for the past several years China and the US have dominated.

The IPA report released in October (pdf) shows just how big a slice of the pie the two countries hold in terms of new titles. Of the books released in 2015 by the 25 biggest book markets, China published 28% of the total, and the US 20%.

The counts include re-editions of older titles, but not self-published books. The IPA collects their data from a number of sources that count using different methodology, so the association admits it’s not a perfectly consistent dataset. Still, the data give a picture of book publishing powers today:

This shouldn’t come as a shock; China and the US are also the two countries with the most GDP. Another way of thinking about the data is to look at books per capita, which gives us a better sense of book culture within each country. By that measure China is much farther down the list of the top 25 book markets, with the US in the middle. The UK, Iceland, and Denmark are at the top.