Some facts about the book publishing industry:

Number of new titles published annually in the U.S.: 172,000 (2005 figures)
Number of books produced annually in the U.S.: 4.15 billion (2006 figures)
Number of books sold annually in the U.S.: 3.09 billion (2006 figures)
55 percent of fiction is bought by women, 45 percent by men
Annual net sales of books in the U.S.: $23.9 billion (2009 figures, 1.8% decrease comparing to 2008)
Annual net sales of e-Books in the U.S.: $313 million (2009 figures, 176.6% increase comparing to 2008)
Annual revenues of European book publishers: Euro 22.3 billion (2004 figures)
Top 5 Book Formats (2009 figures):
Trade paperback (35%), Hardcover (35%), Mass market paperback (21%), Audio (2%), E-book (2%), Other (5%)
Top 5 Book Channels (2009 figures):
Large Chains (27%), E-commerce (20%), Book club (11%), Mass merchandisers (8%), Independents (5%), Other (29%)
What is the most important factor in book purchase?
Subject (43%), Author (29%), Good recommendation/word of mouth (11%), Reading a few pages (5%), Title (4%), Price (3%), Jacket design (1%)
Number of U.S. book publishers: 74,240 (record number on 2007, that's compared with 397 in 1925)
Number of U.S. book publishers who signed the Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use initiated by the Green Press Initiative to improve their ecological footprint: about 250

Although just a small number of all U.S. publishers signed the treatise so far, we see a growing awareness to environmental issues within the industry in the last couple of years. In terms of market share, about 50% of the publishers in the U.S. have environmental policies in place and goals for increasing their recycled/FSC-certified paper usage. Here are some examples:

Random House, a leading U.S. publisher, announced in May 2006 that it will raise the proportion of recycled paper it uses to at least 30% by 2010 from under 3% at the time of the announcement.

Update: Random House is looking to extend the time frame to reach its objective. On Nov 2010, Michael DeFazio, VP, Director, Production Planning and Paper, and co-chair of the Random House Green Committee told Publishers Weekly that Random expects to hit the 30% mark in 2013; interim goals are 22.5% for 2011, and 25% by 2012. "DeFazio cited the lack of good, affordable recycled paper as a major hurdle in hitting its original goal."

On November 2007, Simon & Schuster announced on a new environmental initiative and paper policy that will increase the amount of recycled fiber in the paper used to manufacture its books - an incremental increase of the use of recycled fiber from its current 10% baseline level to a 25% or greater aggregate level by 2012 for books printed and bound in the U.S.

On January 2008, Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books, announced on a new green policy that is meant to "further strengthening its sustainable paper procurement practices". Scholastic's policy is based on a five-year goal to increase its publication paper purchase of FSC-certified paper to 30% and its use of recycled paper to 25%, of which 75% will be post-consumer waste.

Update: On July 27, 2011 Scholastic announced that "having made significant gains toward the FSC goal, Scholastic today said it will increase its goal for 2012 from 30% to 35% of all paper purchased. " In 2010, Scholastic purchased 82,146.3 tons of paper of which 22,380 tons, or 27.24%, was FSC-certified, up from 3.6% in 2007. In addition, 14,685 tons, or 17.88%, of the paper purchased was produced from recovered fiber, up from 13.5% in 2007, and of that amount, 11,472 tons, or 78.12%, was produced from PCW fiber, down slightly from 80.7% in 2007. See more details on Scholastic's progress in the image below (source: Scholastic).

On November 2009, the Hachette Book Group has announced a new environmental policy that will increase the publisher's use of recycled paper by 2012 from 3% to 30%, with a majority of the fiber to be postconsumer, reduce its carbon footprint 2% per year off of a 2008 baseline and increase the use of paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to at least 20% of paper use by 2012.

Update: On November 2010, Pete Datos, VP, Inventory and Procurement of HBG, and chair of the Book Industry Environmental Council, told Publishers Weekly that "the paper market "has become more volatile. While some areas of going green will pay for themselves, using more recycled paper is almost certainly going to cost more." It could be then that the Hachette Book Group will look to extend the time frame to reach its objectives.

There is also progress on the industry level -The Book Industry Environmental Council announced on April 2009 it has set goals for cutting the U.S. book industry's greenhouse gas emissions in 20% by 2020 (from a 2006 baseline) with the intent of achieving an 80% reduction by 2050.

The number of trees that are cut down annually to produce the books sold in the U.S.: more than 30 million (in accordance with the data on the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry report)

Percentage of recycled paper currently used by U.S. book publishers in the production of books: 5%-10%

The environmental impacts of the book publishing industry are analyzed and reviewed in an extensive report published on March 2008. 'Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry', a 86-page report, was prepared by the Green Press Initiative (GPI) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), with support from a number of industry sponsors.

76 publishers, representing more than 45% of market share by revenue, participated in the study, along with 13 printers (about 25 percent) and 6 paper mills (about 17 percent). This is an up to date analysis of the industry's ecological footprint and the most detailed survey someone has done for years to receive a clear picture of the book publishing industry's environmental impacts. Eco-Libris covered the report in a 3-part series, which is available on this page:

Some of the important findings in the report regarding the industry's footprint are:

The carbon footprint of a book (2006 figures): 8.85 lbs, in carbon dioxide terms

The total carbon footprint of the book publishing industry (2006 figures): 12.4 million metric tons

The biggest contributor to the industry's footprint: using virgin paper - forest and forest harvest are responsible to 62.7% of the industry's total carbon emissions.

Usage of recycled paper
We want to see every publisher using recycled paper and want to encourage publishers to aim higher and adopt even bolder goals than those in the above-mentioned treatise. Today, recycled paper has become more affordable – according to the Green Press Initiative, 24 new types of book paper with strong environmental attributes have come to market in the last couple of years. According to industry experts, the price of recycled paper is only slightly higher than that of regular paper. In some cases there’s even no difference at all – in a 2005 survey conducted by Book Business Magazine, 17% of publishers using at least 30% post-consumer recycled fiber were able to achieve cost parity.

It also seems that there is more willingness by consumers to pay more to support a move to recycled paper. A 2005 study of American book and magazine readers found that almost 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for books printed on recycled paper (42% are willing to pay $1 more per book according to the survey).

Greater use of recycled paper will also decrease other environmental impacts of the book industry. Making paper from recycled paper is generally a cleaner and more efficient process than making paper from virgin fiber, as much of the work of extracting and bleaching the fibers has already been done. The results are less air and water pollution and lower water and energy consumption (20%-30% less energy).

More information on the advantages of using recycled paper can be found in this paper prepared by the Environmental Defense and the Alliance for Environmental Innovation.

Further development of sustainable non-tree materials for the production of books
We believe in the importance of conducting more research to develop economically viable paper content made from cellulose-rich agricultural residue (such as cereal straw, sugarcane bagasse, corn stover, etc.), or from crops that are ideally suited for paper production, like hemp or kenaf.

Use of paper that comes from certified forests
We think that recycled paper should be used as much as possible in the production of books. If trees are used to make raw materials for paper, they should only be from forests certified by forest management systems, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.

FSC is an independent non-profit organization that sets standards worldwide for responsible forest management. These standards are aimed to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests. For example, the standards include requirements to manage forests in a way that conserves biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, in order to maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest.

Using FSC certified paper ensures that the paper does not originate from trees in endangered forests, that the forests it is derived from were not converted to single-species tree farms after harvest, and that the biodiversity and the resilience of ecosystems is maintained.

Green printing tools and resources can be found on our Green Printing page, including an archive of our green tips series.

Updates on the future of bookstores are available at

Updates on the future of the publishing industry are available at


1. Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry

2. Green Press Initiative

3. Random House

4. Dan's Poynter's

5. Federation of European Publishers

6. U.S. Census Bureau

7. Publishers Weekly

8. Bowker

9. The New York Times

10. The Association of American Publishers (AAP)

11. The Reading and Book Buying Habits of Americans - 2008 Survey by Zogby International

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