If you're wondering how to get a book published make sure your publisher's books is stocked in bookstores. The first bookstores in the United States were established at least as far back as 1640. At that time, quite a few booksellers were also book publishers. By 1700 there were 30 booksellers in Boston alone. However, these stores didn't restrict themselves to just books but sold other merchandise as well. Richard Hoe's invention of the rotary press, which spewed out pages at the rate of 8000 sheets an hour, opened up the mass market for books. The divergence between bookseller and book publisher began to widen.
Book publishing is a $37 billion dollar industry in the United States. It has been estimated that the five large publishing companies, Random House Inc., Penguin USA, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner and HarperCollins, account for nearly eighty percent of all book sales in the US. This has occurred for the same reasons any other industry goes through consolidation: by combining certain administrative or staff functions, costs can be reduced and profits increased. Publishing, relative to many other industries, has not enjoyed a high Return on Investment (ROI) for investors. Now publishers are much more focused on having every single book they publish be profitable. This means a more risk averse philosophy, with a preference for publishing authors with successful track records--a sound business strategy.
Currently there are about 2000 chain bookstore locations. An additional 2200 independent booksellers belong to the American Booksellers Association. There are some 50,000 locations that sell books. Around 50% of books meant for retail sales are sold in bookstores, only about 10 -15% of new books are sold online.
Oddly enough Barnes and Noble is re-instituting the old fashioned idea that booksellers are also publishers. Its wholly owned company, Sterling Publishing, has the publishing or distribution rights to 10,000 titles and has actively published 5000. They own a chunk of IUniverse, a publish-on-demand company. The CEO of Barnes and Noble, Stephen Riggio, is the Chairman of the Board for IUniverse.
Borders Group owns about 1100 stores in the United States and has revenues of about $3.8 billion. It operates Borders Books and Music and Waldenbooks. The chain is the outgrowth of two independent bookstores. Walden Books was established by Lawrence Hoyt in 1962. Borders Books was established by Tom and Louis Borders in 1971. K-Mart Corporation purchased Walden Books, which in turn purchased Brentano's Books in 1984. In 1991 K-mart purchased Borders Books and formed Borders-Walden Group and renamed it Borders Group, Inc. Borders Group Inc. then went public in 1995.