How Many Books Were Published 100 Years Ago As Compared To Today?

A Glut of Publishing

In 1907 there were 9,260 books published in the United States according to the New York State Library Bookboard.

Compare that to 2010 when there were 316,480 books published by traditional publishing companies according to Bowker.

Add to that another 2,776,260 on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ”micro-niche” publications.

That is over 3 million books published in one year.

No wonder it is so hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.

There are fewer publications reviewing books. There may be more reviews of books available online, but in this democratization of the internet where one opinion is as valuable (or worthless) as another, there are only a few remaining sources of people whose full time job it is to review books.

There are still countless lists of “best books of the year.”

In the early part of the 20th century The University of the State of New York (USNY) used to list the best books annually.

In 1907, the USNY selected their best books list by composite votes from libraries in New York State. They divided that list into fourteen different categories:  Reference Books and Bibliography; Philosophy and Religion; Sociology and Education; Customs and Folk-Lore; Natural Science; Useful Arts; Fine Arts; Amusements and Sports; Literature; Description and Travel; History; Biography; Fiction and Juvenile.

The category that I find most interesting is “Juvenile.”

The following titles were voted the best in this category

  • Harper’s Electricity Book For Boys by Joseph Adams
  • Birds That Every Child Should Know by Mrs. Nellie Blanchan Doubleday
  • Famous Stories Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie
  • Harper’s Outdoor Book For Boys by Joseph Adams
  • Spirit of The School by Ralph Henry Barbour
  • Pinafore Palace by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Fire Fighters and Their Pets by Alfred Downes
  • Captain June by Alice Hegan Rice
  • The Camp-fire of Mad Anthony by Everett Tomlinson
  • Lisbeth Longfrock by Hans Aanrud

This old list is probably similar to a list today, in that it is a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

But what were the books of one hundred years ago teaching to kids?  A short description of the contents for Harper’s Electricity Book For Boys by Joseph Adams: dozens of illustrations of electric principles and experiments. The book explains and discusses: cells, batteries, induction coils, dynamos, switches, electrical resistance, galvanometers, how telephones work, how to make a burglar alarm and much more.

The author, Joseph Adams, was an inventor of significant importance, who was instrumental in the improvement of the conversion process of oil to gasoline.  This book was written by an expert with the intention that children could  be learning advanced scientific concepts while making the content engaging and interesting for younger people.

The late Dr. Oswald Villard Jr. who improved radar so that it could see over the horizon said in an interview that he became interested in electricity as a boy after being given ”Harper’s Electricity Book for Boys,” which he kept for the rest of his life.

I’m making a broad generalization but my question is: what will today’s juvenile books inspire? How to be a better vampire? Kill zombies?

2 thoughts on “How Many Books Were Published 100 Years Ago As Compared To Today?

  1. Pingback: New Grub Street and an Age-Old War | Scott Solomon

  2. Pingback: Author Interview with Alice Anderson,"Tips for Authors" | Wise, Ink.

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