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Industry News: Self-publishing grows (surprise!), Amazon dominates UK, ‘Literary’ reading down

September 28, 2013

Self-publishing revenue doubles traditional publishing’s

Self-publishing is a big business (duh). According to New Publisher House, a media technology firm, the total revenue from self-publishing is $52 billion, twice that of traditional publishing. The insights, listed in a report called State of Independence 2014, studies industry data, along with observations from publishing executives, Amazon, and Google. The report also observes that there are 8 times more new self-published titles than traditionally published and 100 times more self-published authors than traditionally published. Many of the self-publishing efforts are being led by former employees of traditional publishers who have been “made redundant” by their employers.

What this means to you: I have a friend who self-published three religious books over the past few years through Publish America. He’s retired and did all his writing on his own, without seeking a publisher or an agent or working through critique groups or going to any conference. He just wanted to do that. The self-publishing “movement” is more about him than Joe Konrath. Traditional publishers are still making money and for some authors, they probably represent the best business model. The self-publishing industry has started the equivalent of a minor-league system for publishing. If you sell a lot of books self-published or with a niche or independent publisher, someone in New York will notice and come calling. To some degree, this has always been the case. Tom Clancy was first published by the Naval Institute Press way back in the day. With more self-publishing and electronic publishing options, this model has become solidified.

Amazon controls 79% of the ebook market in the UK

When the Department of Justice was protecting consumers (and Amazon) from Apple and the big publishers, some people were asking who was going to protect consumers and the big publishers from Amazon. In the UK, at least, that protection may be required. According to a survey taken by Ofcom (and partially funded by the UK Intellectual Property Office), Amazon controls nearly four-fifths of the ebook market in the UK. Of the competition, no one else made it to double figures, with Apple, Google search, Google Play, email, and a few others logging single figured. According to testimony from the DoJ trial, Amazon controls 50 to 60 percent of the US market.

What this means to you: It shouldn’t be a shock that Amazon is the major player in ebooks. It has been since introducing the Kindle–the first viable eReader. Its business practices have been criticized as predatory for quite some time. And if Barnes and Noble fails, as some analysts predict, its share will only increase. Amazon started primarily as a bookseller, so between hardcopy and ebooks, it roots are in bookselling. It’s a major player and the predatory stories aren’t all sour grapes. Amazon will continue to search for ways to extend its dominance, and the rest of the publishing community will continue to pair with partners like Apple to push back.

Reading holds steady; literary reading down

According to a recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts, general reading levels held steady from 2008 to 2012, but fewer adults read literature (novels, short stories, plays, or poetry) during the time period. The level of “literature” reading dropped from 50.2% of adults in 2008 to 46.9% in 2012 (down from 54% in 1992). Men stopped reading at a higher rate than women, with their rate falling from 41.9% to 36.9%, while women’s rates fell from 58% to 56.1%. But when you factor in all books, the reading level actually increased from 54.3% to 54.5%.

What this means to you: Fiction tends to get all the headlines in the publishing industry (Harry Potter, Twilight, 50 Shades of Gray), but the increase in reading is coming outside the fiction genres. In spite of the reduction in “literary reading” (as defined by the study), reading levels actually inched up over the time period. That means options other than fiction, short stories, poetry, and plays made up for the reductions in those areas and rose a little. The study didn’t include magazines, newspapers, and online reading. As a result, the statistics and the headlines attached to this story are misleading. And one very telling statistic–the length of the pieces being read–is not even mentioned. In the Internet age, it’s a good bet that more reading is of shorter pieces, as the pace of overall life increases.

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One Comment
  1. September 29, 2013 8:15 am

    Wow, I think we’re in a good time to be self published, even if it’s a bad time also because so many self pub’ed haven’t (yet) the quality of the traditionals. And so far, any big company that dominates it’s landscape will do so until the next one comes along. Right now, I’d hope that Amazon being so big means good things for me as an indy published author!

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