5.2.1: 1910 - heden - Introduction

The nineteenth-century printing industry continued to grow throughout the twentieth century. Factors such as the population increase, the degree of education, prosperity and leisure time resulted in an increase in titles produced and in print runs. Despite competition from mass media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, film, television and the Internet, books consolidated their position. Title production (including reprints) rose from 3000 in 1900 to 6500 halfway through the century and reached a total production of 17,235 titles in 1997. After the first complaints of overproduction were heard in 1910, they never ceased, with the exception of the Second World War. The problem was a result of the sharp increase in both the number of titles and the number of readers, making it even harder for books and readers to find each other. More intense marketing efforts on the part of the publishers were to provide the solution. After the Second World War, the paperback gained a proper foothold, turning books into a real mass medium.

Large publishing companies were formed and the industry was concentrated, first by vertical integration of publisher, bookshop and the printing industry, later by horizontal integration within the branches of business. At the end of the century, there were but few independent publishers left. At the same time, huge changes in the production methods, such as offset printing, photocopying and desk-top publishing meant that the production of printed matter was no longer monopolised by the printing industry. The extensive diffusion of computers at the end of the century meant that publishers' products were no longer exclusively paper publications. The most important of these all-digital products are CD-ROMs and on-line publications, with e-books under development. The increase in the production of printed matter and the importance of other media made the exploitation of intellectual property (copyright) more lucrative. More authors were able to earn a living with their writing. This also resulted in the arrival of the literary agent.

author: A.H. van der Weel