As long as people continue to read, there will be a future in book publishing. Trends in book publishing employment through 2028 are projected to vary by career segment, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For example, writers and authors are expected to experience little or no growth and employment of editors will decline slightly. Future opportunities for writers and editors are expected to be greatest in online publications, and those with multimedia and Web experience will be in demand. Desktop publishers will see a dramatic decline in employment, dropping by 16 percent through 2028, as more publishers continue to publish their materials electronically.
Technological improvements have had a large impact on the publishing industry. Desktop publishing software, such as Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Publisher, has made editing and page makeup simpler and more efficient, allowing for a greater output of titles. Digital printing has the potential to revolutionize the industry by making printing faster and more economical. And electronic publishing formats and handheld e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook are positioned to change the publishing industry in pivotal ways in the coming years.
Computerized ordering systems are making the publishing business much more cost effective. These systems allow for more accurate inventory maintenance and more efficient distribution networks.
Demand for people with the experience and skills to produce e-books (and other digital publishing formats) and devise digital publishing strategies is also expected to grow as electronic formats become increasingly central to the publishing industry.
The book publishing landscape remains challenging as the industry continues to work for balance among different formats, technologies, sales channels, and categories. According to the Association of American Publishers, the book publishing industry—including trade (fiction/nonfiction), K-12 instructional materials, higher education course materials, university presses, and professional books—generated about $25.8 billion in revenue in 2018, down slightly from $26.2 billion in 2017. Declines occurred in all categories except trade publishing, which increased 1.5 percent. For the second year in a row, sales to online retail channels ($8.03 billion) exceeded sales to physical retail stores ($6.90 billion). Trade print books accounted for 45.1 percent of publishers' sales within the online retail channel. e-books comprised 24.5 percent of the total, followed by instructional materials (14.5%), downloaded audio (13.7%), and physical audio or another format (2.2%).
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic accelerated an ongoing general shift to digital spaces and online book retailers. Many physical bookstores closed their doors in observance of restrictions on social gatherings, and some did not reopen when restrictions lifted. Book store sales dropped precipitously in April and May of 2020. Libraries adapted to the digital space as well or found ways to give patrons access to books without having them in the library itself. Amazon and other online booksellers saw rises in sales as customers turned to online delivery options. More recent data, however, from the Association of American Publishers, the market researcher NPD Group, and Publishers Weekly shows that all sectors of the publishing industry had "solid gains through October" of 2020. As cited in an industry article about the future of book publishing post pandemic, "Looking to 2021, most projections for the U.S. COVID-recovery economy as a whole are positive, with expected growth of 6 percent or more. Given that publishing sales have increased in the economically challenged environment of 2020, the prospects should be encouraging." The pandemic gave rise to more people spending time at home and having more time to read. When lockdowns lift, it is yet to be known if reading will stay at its current level or decline.