The eBook Market Continues to Matureby P.J. Hulstrand
From 2006 to 2011, the self-publishing industry was on a whirlwind romance of record-breaking 60 percent growth per year, mainly thanks to the glut of eBooks moving into the marketplace. I had the luxury or the bad luck of having gotten into the publishing arena just before the eBook took the industry on its skyrocketing frenzy. It seems like almost everyone has jumped on the bandwagon to self-publish that book or books they have been hiding inside themselves their entire lives.
The new numbers on self-published books, as of September 6, 2014, were released by ProQuest, an affiliate of Bowker, based on the assignment of ISBNs to all books. These numbers refer to 2008-2013, and they show a new picture. According to Bowker, these numbers signify that “self-publishing has matured and slowed down to a steadier, less frantic pace.” However, the big surprise noted by industry watch dogs, such as Digital Book World, was that the growth of eBooks actually dropped 1.6 percent during this period, but the number of books in print has risen by 29 percent.
For years I have been saying that it is necessary for every author to have their books in print, even if they put it up for sale as an eBook first. Not everyone in the world has a Kindle or other reading device. And it is just easier to sell your book if the reader can touch and feel it in print format. They may still buy it from you as a PDF or the eBook format of their choice, but there is something to be said about the increase in salability of a book if they can “see” the physical book in person first. While Kindle autographing is an option, it really is not the author’s true autograph.
There is also something to be said about the ease of using a book in print. While the technology is
making it easier to purchase and upload eBooks to our computers or eReaders, not everyone has the knack or an understanding of how this works. However, everyone knows how to “open” a physical book and start reading.
Also noted in this Bowker report is an increase of 17 percent in registered ISBNs in 2013, which should be no surprise, since Amazon has now made it mandatory to have an ISBN for all print books before selling on their website. Gone are the years of throwing your book up for sale without any notable monetary output. The winds of change continue to shift.
As I went through the report, I noted the sheer percentage increases in print and eBooks for such companies as Smashwords, which gives you an ISBN (for eBooks only) if you do not already have one. Smashwords saw an increase of 131,438.46 percent from 2008 to 2013. This is flabbergasting to me, especially considering that if you look at their numbers for 2012 to 2013, this increase was a negative 5.27 percent. Their heyday was apparently the year 2012, and they are now on a decline. I would be interested to see these numbers in the next few years and wonder if Smashwords can even stay on top of this business.
There are two others companies that should really be watched, based on my knowledge of these companies and the number of books they are putting into the industry. Obviously the big one is CreateSpace, Amazon’s print arm. Its combined percentage increase from 2008 to 2013 was 1,525.73 percent; however, its numbers have been climbing every year, with the 2012-2013 numbers still on the rise (42.19 percent), unlike the competitive leader of eBook aggregators, Smashwords.
I would attribute this increase to Amazon’s ability to offer terrific tools to the self-published author at affordable costs. Just to be clear, I acknowledge Amazon’s ability to sucker the buying public into thinking they can only buy a book on Amazon, and to my many friends who self-publish through the CreateSpace system, I show no favoritism toward publishing through CreateSpace.
However much I dislike Amazon for being a necessary evil in the publishing industry, I would like to make specific note of the numbers on this report regarding the up-and-coming monster in our industry, Author Solutions, which now has a growing acquisition of 13 companies now in its stable. Thankfully, its overall percentages are dropping as it is one to the worst sharks out in this industry, using gimmicks like price-gouging, bait-and-switch advertising, and the lure of what looked like a terrific opportunity to get your books attached to big-name publishers like Random House and Simon & Schuster, which have successful distribution abilities. That has been found to not be the case at all. Bookstores like Barnes & Noble and many other independent stores will not accept any books from Author Solutions.
For those authors who have had to or are still dealing with Author Solutions companies, I am deeply sorry for your pain. If you are thinking of dealing with them, I urge you to explore our industry watchdogs or Google the company yourself before handing them any of your hard-earned money. Here are just two worrisome stories:
My advice has always been to research the companies you want to deal with before giving them any money.
The publishing industry has a very long history, and it has survived the many changes and advances that have shut down other businesses and industries. The publishing industry even weathered The Great Depression. So it likely will continue to ebb and flow with the technology changes that have rocked its foundation over these last years. This report from Bowker is just one instrument of understanding how to dodge and weave with the shifts ahead of us all, as publishers and as self-published authors.
Patti J. Hultstrand has assisted in bringing 78 books to market since 2009 through her company, AZ PublishingServices, LLC. She has been a graphic designer for 24 years, fourteen of those years in a print shop. PJ is an author of four books, three fiction and one nonfiction. She is also the Managing Editor for the pop culture newspaper, The WOD, and is a media host on KWOD Radio. You can find her speaking or running her media team at many local Arizona conventions throughout the year. Follow her on Facebook.