Friday, November 9, 2012

Statistics: A Mystery

Apparently the news is good. In a tough economic landscape when e-books and other changes threaten sales of print books, New Zealand's book sales are doing better than most. Looking at market share for New Zealand titles, non fiction has 32%, children's books 17% and fiction 3 %. Looking at those numbers I'm trying to decide if we children's writers are punching above our weight. 17% feels pretty good. There are a lot of overseas titles coming in all the time so I think 17% represents quite an effort on the parts of both consumers and producers. When I think of the local children's writers and illustrators I know the scene feels vibrant, the quality of books strong, their production of a terrific quality. When I think a little harder about the statistics it becomes a little unclearer. I will presume that the 3% refers to adult fiction only. Not sure where YA sits but I'm going to say its put with children's fiction as that's what tends to happen. Trouble comes of thinking of children's books as one genre. They aren't. Would be interesting to drill down further and see what proportion of the 17% are pb's versus novels etc... Still 17% is an interesting number. 3 % is an interesting number too. I wonder what the numbers were for the preceding period. Has our market share grown, shrunk or remained static? How do these numbers compare with market share of their own books in other countries? I can't imagine we have a market share significant enough to be measurable in any other country. What other country's literature has an independently significant market share here? What I'm trying to get my head around is what these numbers should actually mean for today's authors and illustrators in New Zealand? What can we do to improve things? Can we improve our impact in some other country? Statistics seem to tell a story but strip away the unknowns and they are only half the story and definitely not the climax or the resolution. Should I feel happy? Or sad? I'm not really sure.

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