Slight Decline in History Book Publishing, but Still Near Record Highs

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The number of history books published in North America dipped slightly in 2004, but still remains near record highs. The data has to be read with caution as it contains a number of evident flaws and ambiguities. Not all history books are equal, after all, in the eyes of the history profession. Nevertheless, the vital importance of books and monographs to the health of the discipline and profession of history makes even an impressionistic picture of the state of the industry helpful. Perhaps most heartening is evidence that history titles led a surge in new books from university presses in 2004 (even though more recent estimates suggest a slight lag).

According to data published by R. R. Bowker LLC, the company that publishes the annual guide Books in Print, the number of new history titles published fell 7.4 percent—from 10,439 to 9,662 books—from 2003 to 2004.1 Despite the decline, this is still the second highest number of history books produced, almost 50 percent higher than the number of titles produced in 1993 (the first year with comparable data).

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