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Self-Publishing of Books Sees Triple-Digit Growth in Just Five Years

October 24, 2012
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ—Oct. 24, 2012—The number of self-published books produced annually in the United States has nearly tripled, growing 287 percent since 2006. The tally now stands at more than 235,000 print and “e” titles, according to a new analysis of data from Bowker Books In Print and Bowker Identifier Services.

Bowker’s research explores the dramatic U.S. growth of an area once relegated to the fringes of publishing. It finds that while production increases are occurring in both print and eBook formats, the latter is driving the greatest percentage gains. It also shows that while self-publishing may seem like a cottage industry, it is dominated by large firms that offer publishing services to individual authors.

“Self-publishing is now supported by a sophisticated and highly accessible support structure,” said Beat Barblan, director of identifier services for Bowker. “It’s provided everyone who has a story to tell with a method for sharing it and leveled the playing field to an unprecedented degree.

“This is no longer just vanity presses at work; self-publishing is out of the dark corners and making its way into the mainstream. Notable success stories include a number of self-published authors landing their titles onto the prestigious New York Times bestseller list for ebook fiction,” Barblan added.

Bowker’s research into self-publishing was prompted by an earlier study that showed 2011’s 148,424 self-published print books represented about 43 percent of that year’s total traditional print output and contributed to the first significant expansion in print production since 2007. While print accounts for 63 percent of self-published books, eBooks are gaining fast—production in 2011 totaled 87,201 titles, up 129 percent over 2006. Print titles grew 33 percent in the same period.

While self-publishing is a DIY undertaking, Bowker’s analysis shows its infrastructure is made up of a handful of large firms. In 2011, CreateSpace dominated the print segment, supporting the creation of 58,412 titles (39 percent of self-published print books). Smashwords topped the eBook producers with 40,608 titles (nearly 47 percent of total self-published e-books). The combined divisions of Author Solutions (part of Penguin Group) produced a total of 47,094 titles and Lulu Enterprises checks in with 38,005 titles. The Bowker analysis shows that beyond these four players, no company has more than 10 percent of market share.

Small presses, a category that is defined as publishers that have produced 10 or fewer books, accounted for 34,107 self-published titles—21,256 print and 12,851 eBooks—in 2011. Print book production by small presses increased more than 74 percent between 2006 and 2011.
 

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