Current Stats for Used Book Market


Spring 2004 (Vol V, No. 1) Table of Contents

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.

total dealers open shops (1) by appt mail/internet (2) antique mall
new england 893 409 239 198 48
mid-atlantic 1194 523 316 306 49
south atlantic 1050 645 146 179 80
midwest 1312 696 223 258 136
central/western 1312 878 147 222 65
pacific coast 1514 1016 227 247 25
total 7275 4167 1298 1410 403

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 Press

Pub Date Count when published Added since publication (1) Deleted since publication (1) Current Count
New England/2nd 2000 402 41 34 409
Mid-Atlantic/Rev 1997 504 121 102 523
South Atlantic/Rev 1998 594 154 103 645
Midwest/Rev 1999 728 58 90 696
Central/Western 1997 912 197 231 878
Pacifc Coast 2000 1028 93 105 1016
Total 4168 664 665 4167

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

REGION See Methodology for list of states in each region # of Dealers (1993-1996) # of Dealers (1997-2000) # of Dealers 2002 Net Change # of Dealers 1993-20021 # of Bookstores (Open Shops) (1993-1996) # of Bookstores (Open Shops) (1997-2000) # of Bookstores (Open Shops) 2002 % Change in Bookstores (Open Shops) 1993-2002 1
New England 774 881 892 15% 354 413 412 16%
Mid-Atlantic 915 1,160 1,182 29% 444 534 519 17%
South Atlantic 634 962 970 53% 458 622 577 26%
Midwest 1,052 1,339 1,339 27% 640 757 717 12%
Central/Western 1,270 1,2702 1336 5% 938 938 2 907 -3%
Pacific Coast 1,361 1,500 1,479 9% 1,006 1,064 987 -2%
Total 6,006 7,112 7,198 20% 3,840 4,328 4,119 7%

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
By: Susan Siegel
bookhunterpress@earthlink.net

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