Literary culture

Literary culture reflects the huge impact of the printing press on culture, and on cities

The printing press is perhaps the single most important innovation in communications technology the world has seen, and the printed book became the easiest way to communicate knowledge over long distances. Yet the printing press has also contributed to a more urban world, by spurring revolutions in thinking about politics, religion and social attitudes.

The importance of literary culture in cities is reflected in the statistics gathered for this report. Although libraries have existed for centuries – the famous ancient Library of Alexandria was built more than 2,300 years ago – genuinely public libraries, aimed at the mass of the population, are a comparatively recent phenomenon, dating from the industrial revolution and efforts to encourage greater literacy and education. Driven by government legislation, and by reformers such as Andrew Carnegie in the United States, the public library spread rapidly across the world. Even in the internet age, major new libraries continue to be built. The National Library of Singapore opened in 2005 at a cost of more than £250m and holds more than 700,000 books and other print and non-print materials. The Central Public Library (Centrale Bibliotheek) in Amsterdam was built less than ten years ago and is now one of Europe’s largest public libraries.

Today, half of the 21 world cities have 100 or more public libraries, with Paris reporting the highest number. The world cities’ libraries lend huge numbers of books. Twelve cities lend at least 20m a year, with Tokyo lending more than 110m. Both Tokyo and New York lend more than eight books a year per head of population.

Libraries are, of course, not the only source of books and reading materials. The cities also contain thousands of bookshops. In the richer countries, bookshops are under pressure from a range of factors, such as the spread of e-books, high rents and changing consumer taste. The numbers of shops are still significant – London has 800, while New York and Buenos Aires have 750. However, other cities report higher numbers: Paris, Shanghai, Johannesburg and Hong Kong have more than 1,000. Tokyo leads the way, with 1,675. The report also collected data for rare and second- hand bookshops. These were most frequently found in Johannesburg (over 900) and Tokyo (almost 700).

Statistics on publishing are hard to find for cities, though national data is available. Once again, historical accident has played a part in determining the centres of publishing. Edward Glaeser has pointed out that in the nineteenth century the big profits in American publishing came from printing pirated copies of English novels. New York’s port and East Coast location meant its publishers could get hold of the English originals before their rivals in other cities, which allowed it to build up a dominant position in the industry it maintains to this day.

The number of books published has exploded in recent years. In China and the USA around 300,000 are published every year, while in the UK the figure is just over 150,000. France and Japan see more than 70,000 published annually.

Number of public libraries

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 82 LISA/ Statistics Netherlands
Berlin 88 Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg
Bogotá 89 SDCRD/Bibliored/Bibliotecas Comunitarias
Buenos Aires 81 Ministerio de Educación GCBA
Hong Kong 77 LCSD
Istanbul 42 Turkish Statistical Institute
Johannesburg-Gauteng 234 Gauteng Library/Information Services 2010 Annual Report
London 383 CIPFA Stats Public Library Statistics
Los Angeles 240 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Montréal 57 MCC - Ministère de la culture et des communications du Québec
Mumbai 80 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 220 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Paris 830 Le Motif (observatoire du livre et de l’écrit en Ile-de-France)
Rio de Janeiro 74 Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (Cadastro Nacional de Bibliotecas)
São Paulo 98 Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (Cadastro Nacional de Bibliotecas)
Seoul 105 Committee on Library and Information Policy/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Shanghai 477 Shanghai Municipal Culture, Radio Broadcasting, Film and Television Administration (SMCBFTA)
Singapore 25 Public Libraries Singapore Website
Sydney 154 State Library New South Wales"Public Libraries in New South Wales Directory 2010"
Tokyo 377 Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Bureau of General Affairs. Statistics Division. Management and Coordination Section.
Toronto 101 TorontoPublicLibrary.ca

Number of public libraries per 100,000 population

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 3 LISA/ Statistics Netherlands
Berlin 2.50 Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg
Bogotá 2 SDCRD/Bibliored/Bibliotecas Comunitarias
Buenos Aires 3 Ministerio de Educación GCBA
Hong Kong 1 LCSD
Istanbul 0.30 Turkish Statistical Institute
Johannesburg-Gauteng 2 Gauteng Library/Information Services 2010 Annual Report
London 5 CIPFA Stats Public Library Statistics
Los Angeles 2.50 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Montréal 3 MCC - Ministère de la culture et des communications du Québec
Mumbai 0.01 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 3 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Paris 7 Le Motif (observatoire du livre et de l’écrit en Ile-de-France)/Insee
Rio de Janeiro 1 Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (Cadastro Nacional de Bibliotecas)
São Paulo 1 Fundação Biblioteca Nacional (Cadastro Nacional de Bibliotecas)
Seoul 1 Committee on Library and Information Policy/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Shanghai 2 Shanghai Municipal Culture, Radio Broadcasting, Film and Television Administration (SMCBFTA)
Singapore 0.50 Public Libraries Singapore Website
Sydney 3 State Library New South Wales"Public Libraries in New South Wales Directory 2010"
Tokyo 3 Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Bureau of General Affairs. Statistics Division. Management and Coordination Section.
Toronto 4 TorontoPublicLibrary.ca

Number of book loans by public libraries per year (million)

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 10.75 Dutch Association of Public Libraries
Berlin 23.58 Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg
Buenos Aires 6.68 Dirección General del Libro y Promoción de la Lectura
Hong Kong 59.90 LCSD
Istanbul 0.12 Turkish Statistical Institute - Cultural Statistics
Johannesburg-Gauteng 9.01 Gauteng Library/Information Services 2010 Annual Report
London 37.20 CIPFA Stats Public Library Statistics
Los Angeles 50.79 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Montréal 12.37 MCC - Ministère de la culture et des communications du Québec
Mumbai 2.05 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 68.04 Bibliostat Connect
Paris 47 Le Motif (observatoire du livre et de l’écrit en Ile-de-France)
Rio de Janeiro 0.18 Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Coordenação de Bibliotecas Figure only concerns municipal libraries
São Paulo 0.84 SEMPLA
Seoul 21.51 Committee on Library and Information Policy/ Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Shanghai 58.69 Shanghai Statistical Yearbook 2011(SSY2011)/STA
Singapore 33.20 National Library Board - Singapore Cultural Statistics 2011
Sydney 20.83 National and State Libraries Australasia
Tokyo 112.24 Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Bureau of General Affairs. Statistics Division. Management and Coordination Section.
Toronto 32 Toronto Public Libraries

Number of book loans by public libraries per capita per year

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 4.58 Dutch Association of Public Libraries
Berlin 6.81 Amt für Statistik Berlin-Brandenburg
Buenos Aires 2.31 Dirección General del Libro y Promoción de la Lectura
Hong Kong 8.47 LCSD
Istanbul 0.01 Turkish Statistical Institute - Cultural Statistics
Johannesburg-Gauteng 0.80 Gauteng Library and Information Services 2010 Annual Report
London 4.80 CIPFA Public Library Statistics 2009-10 Figure estimated from national figure
Los Angeles 5.20 Institute of Museum and Library Services
Montréal 6.56 MCC - Ministère de la culture et des communications du Québec
Mumbai 0.16 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 8.32 Bibliostat Connect
Paris 3.95 le Motif/Insee
Rio de Janeiro 0.03 Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Coordenação de Bibliotecas Figure only concerns municipal libraries
São Paulo 0.07 SEMPLA
Seoul 2 Committee on Library and Information Policy/ Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism
Shanghai 2.50 SSY2011/STA
Singapore 6.50 National Library Board - Singapore Cultural Statistics 2011
Sydney 4.55 National and State Libraries Australasia
Tokyo 8.64 Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Bureau of General Affairs. Statistics Division. Management and Coordination Section.
Toronto 12.24 Toronto Public Libraries

Number of bookshops

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 165 LISA
Berlin 245 Gelbe Seiten
Bogotá 269 CERLALC
Buenos Aires 734 SINCA
Hong Kong 1,660 Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department
Istanbul 463 Yellow Pages
Johannesburg-Gauteng 1,020 VANSA/SABDA
London 802 Booksellers Association
Los Angeles 474 Future of Publishing Think Tank/LACAC
Montréal 112 Institut de la statistique du Québec
Mumbai 525 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 777 Citysearch
Paris 1,025 le Motif
Rio de Janeiro 296 Associação Nacional de Livrarias (ANL)
São Paulo 390 ANL
Seoul 423 Korean Federation of Bookstore Association
Shanghai 1,322 SCY2011
Singapore 164 Eguide Singapore Business Directory
Sydney 439 Yellow Pages
Tokyo 1,675 Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc
Toronto 298 BOP

Number of bookshops per 100.000 population

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 7 LISA
Berlin 7 Gelbe Seiten
Bogotá 3.50 CERLALC
Buenos Aires 25 SINCA
Hong Kong 23 Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department
Istanbul 3 Yellow Pages
London 10 Booksellers Association
Los Angeles 5 Future of Publishing Think Tank/LACAC
Montréal 6 Institut de la statistique du Québec
Mumbai 4 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 9 Citysearch
Paris 9 le Motif
Rio de Janeiro 5 Associação Nacional de Livrarias (ANL)
São Paulo 3.50 ANL
Seoul 4 Korean Federation of Bookstore Association
Shanghai 15 SCY2011
Singapore 3 Eguide Singapore Business Directory
Sydney 10 Yellow Pages
Tokyo 13 Nippon Shuppan Hanbai Inc
Toronto 11 BOP

Number of rare & second hand bookshops

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Berlin 4 Gelbe Seiten
Buenos Aires 102 CAPLA
Johannesburg-Gauteng 943 VANSA/SABDA database
London 68 Experian
Montréal 16 Pages Jaunes
Mumbai 6 Tata Institute of Social Sciences
New York 99 Citysearch
Paris 282 Pages jaunes
Rio de Janeiro 68 Sebos do Brasil
São Paulo 90 Guia Mais
Seoul 102 Seoul Metropolitan Library
Shanghai 343 kongfz.com
Singapore 12 Eguide Singapore Business Directory
Sydney 93 Yellow Pages
Tokyo 681 Japanese Association of Dealers in Old Books/NLI Research Institute
Toronto 48 Yellow pages

Number of book titles published in the country in a year

Title Figure Date Source Notes
Amsterdam 54,087 Royal Book Trading Association
Berlin 93,124 Borsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels
Bogotá 14,235 Agencia Colombiana del ISBN/CERLALC
Buenos Aires 23,680 CAL (Cámara Argentina del Libro)
Hong Kong 14,428 LCSD
Istanbul 34,863 Ministry of Culture and Tourism
Johannesburg-Gauteng 3,653 South African Publishers Association
London 151,969 The Booksellers Association/Nielsen Book
Los Angeles 292,037 Bowker Includes traditional & nontraditional publishers
Montréal 6,564 Institut de la statistique du Québec
Mumbai 82,537 Federation of Indian Publishers
New York 292,037 Bowker Includes traditional & nontraditional publishers
Paris 74,788 SNE
Rio de Janeiro 57,600 CBL
São Paulo 57,600 CBL
Seoul 39,767 Korean Publishers Association
Shanghai 328,387 The General Administration of Press and Publication of the P. R . China
Sydney 8,602 Australian Bureau of Statistics Figure for Australian Titles Only
Tokyo 78,501 Japan Statistical Research and Training Institute, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIAC)
Toronto 6,564 Institut de la statistique du Québec

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The World Cities Culture Forum is a major new global initiative on culture and the future of cities, which was initiated by the Mayor of London and the Greater London Authority.

The World Cities Culture Report is researched and written by BOP Consulting on behalf of the Mayor of London and other city partners.

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