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THE STANDARD

The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.

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Current Stats for Used Book Market

Publishing statistics on the used book market can be a dangerous job as the numbers keep changing and it’s not always clear what is being “counted.”


With these caveats, as of October 2003, the Book Hunter Press database of United States used book dealers showed the following breakdown of dealers by region and type. The footnotes offer a brief explanation of what is and is not included in the figures.


How are these numbers arrived at? By actual contacts with dealers — not a sample survey. Book Hunter Press is continually updating its database with new listings, deletions and changes based on email, snail mail, phone and monitoring a variety of online and off line sources. We also get valuable leads from traveling book hunters that we follow up on; not every store closing means that the dealer is out of business. Sometimes, the store simply moved across town.


What do the numbers show? Depending on your outlook (is the glass half empty or half full?), it appears that the decrease in the number of open shops, the number most frequently looked at, has stabilized at 4,167 shops since reaching a peak of 4,328 shops in 2000. Yes, there have been lots of store closings — but there have also been lots of new stores opening up. As the chart below shows, it’s a very mixed picture.


Who are the new store owners? Again, it’s a mixed picture. Young people as well as retirees fulfilling their dreams; owners of one successful shop opening another, people burned out from one career looking to start another, etc.


Also, contrary to some reports, not all closings are due to the Internet. Many have closed due to retirement (some dealers continue to sell online; others leave the business entirely), some when their rents skyrocketed, and many for a host of other personal reasons. And some, no doubt, because they just failed to make it financially — again, for any number of reasons.

Given its diversity, generalizations about the used book business as a whole are extremely risky.


In addition to maintaining its dealer database, Book Hunter Press has recently undertaken a major survey of the used book market with the goal of gathering additional information about the used book market as it relates to sales. The findings of that survey should be available by the first quarter of 2004.



1) Does not include 100% paperback exchanges 2) Does not include Internet dealers who have entered the business in the past few years

Copyright Book Hunter PressPub DateCount when publishedAdded since publication




1) Does not include changes in dealer status from open shop TO by appointment or mail order/Internet, or, from by appointment or mail order/Internet to open shop.

Copyright Book Hunter Press




1. The net difference between newly added dealers and dealers who have gone out of business. 2. Comparative data not available

Copyright Book Hunter Press

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