Businesses across the country have felt the effects of the United States’ anti-terrorism campaign, and things have been no different for the Yale University Press.
“This has been a very different year for publishers because of 9/11 and because of the recession,” YUP Publishing Director Tina Weiner said.
One might expect book sales to decline during economic recessions. But Weiner said that, this year in particular, the media focused on the news instead of on book publishing.
“During the period of post-9/11, books that were published were getting less attention in the media because so much of the media was focused on 9/11,” she said.
Weiner declined to give specific sales figures from this year and the last, adding that she feels times have changed and that contrasting the figures from this year and last year would be misleading.
“That’s like comparing apples to oranges,” she said.
Weiner did say, however, that YUP has published more books over the past decade than it did before.
“The number of books we do has increased rather dramatically over the past 10 years,” she said.
And not all departments at YUP have been hit especially hard this year, Design and Production Manager Paul Royster said.
He said the market for the “scholarly and reference” books that his department handles is fairly steady, but that it has decreased as a result of the past decade’s technological boom.
“It fluctuates less than the rest of the economy, but over the last 10 years that market has shrunk quite considerably,” he said.
Royster said that libraries are one of the largest groups of buyers of scholarly books and that lately they have been putting more of their money into technology.
“Libraries have a finite number of resources,” he said.
Weiner said the technology boom — as people “are spending more time surfing the Net — or reading more newspapers and watching more television” — has had negative effects across the publishing world.
“All these other distractions didn’t exist before,” she said. “Publishers feel it has affected sales.”
But Weiner said that e-commerce has helped sales in some cases, such as with older books.
“The virtue of Amazon is that they’re set up to stock all our titles,” she said. “The Internet makes books that are older and no longer in bookstores — more readily accessible. In that sense, for certain books, the Internet has really helped to let people know that they are available.”
But Weiner said she thinks the fact that Internet buyers cannot actually peruse books has had the negative effect of decreasing impulse buying.
The decline of independent bookstores, which has accompanied the rise of Internet retailers and of major bookstore chains such as Barnes and Noble, has led to a significant decrease in sales, Weiner said. Internet buying’s positive effects have not outweighed this drop, she added.
“That hasn’t really compensated for the fact that a lot of independent bookstores have closed,” she said.