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Acta Oeconomica
Bas van Leeuwen
Aurelian-Petruş Plopeanu
, and
Peter Foldvari

The number of books published in a country reflects its economic, social and cultural development. Yet, all too often, the production of books is looked upon solely in economic terms, i.e. as a part of national income, or as a proxy for human capital which, in turn, might explain economic growth. In this paper, we aim to give books their day in court. Using a dataset with book titles per 1,000 inhabitants for a large number of countries since 1950, we find that the number of titles was mainly driven by the level of education and income in the lower quantiles. The reduction of printing after 1990 was, surprisingly, not caused by a rise in other media, such as the internet, but, mostly, by a reduction in the effect of education in the poorer countries.

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