Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Bowker Statistics 2009: Non-traditional Means Now The Majority Path For Authors


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The latest 2009 statistical report released by R.R. Bowker today is a real eye-opener. The total amount of titles produced last year was 1,052,803, and significantly, 764,448 of that overall figure came from what Bowker describe as non-traditional channels – a mix of micro-publishers, self-publishers and reprints of public domain titles.

In simple terms, 2010 will see non-traditional produced titles outstrip traditional titles by three to one—something that would have been considered mind-blowing three or four years ago. Indeed, if only publishers knew then what they are now seeing in cold, hard, black and white figures, it might have spurred them to be more proactive with ebooks and the general digitization of every aspect of their business. I am not just referring to the digitization of a publisher’s products for sale, but the entire flow of their industry. As an example, it is still astonishing in this day and age that a paper manuscript can leave an author’s desk, travel half way around the world for a year and a day, and not so much as see a single computer byte until it is acquired and editing and production begin on it. Traditional publishers will argue the toss here; that the output of titles has no necessary bearing on sales and profit generated for publishers and authors—they are right—and I wouldn’t dare dispute this fact, but we are not talking about sales here. The sales reports come all the time and they will, for the foreseeable time, scream out the same line year after year:

‘WE KICKED YOUR FUCKIN’ BUTTS AGAIN A MILLION TIMES OVER YOU SELF-PUBLISHING WASTERS!’

No. What we are talking about here is the how, the means and the avenue authors use to achieve publication.

It is the non-traditional category in the Bowker statistics that produces the vast majority of titles using print-on-demand (POD) technology, usually making the majority of their sales online, or not as the case may be. If you like, this is the category where Bowker record the data for author solutions services like Lulu, iUniverse and AuthorHouse, and it is an opportunity to find out who really deserves to carry those annoying slogans; you know the ones—‘we are the leading self-publisher service in the universe’—we see this qualifier on so many author solutions services’ websites. What the statistics reveal is what I have been saying here for the past twelve months – that CreateSpace has not only surpassed Lulu, but left them standing still in a dust cloud in 2009. Title for title, CreateSpace is now producing more than double the amount of titles per year compared with Lulu’s output. It also bears out my belief that many authors have switched from Lulu to CreateSpace’s service, particularly since the Amazon-owned company launched their global distribution package for $50.

Here are the top author solutions services by title output for 2009:




POD Service   /  Titles in 2009



1.        CreateSpace                         21,819



2.        Lulu                                      10,386



3.        Xlibris                                   10,161



4.        AuthorHouse                          9445



5.        PublishAmerica                       5698



However, as Author Solutions Inc own Xlibris, AuthorHouse, Wordclay, IUniverse and Trafford, we can conclusively say it is ASI who are the real powerhouse of author solutions services. But, then, we knew this as long ago as their purchase of Xlibris into the ASI stablehouse back in 2008. Taken as individual performing companies, I am a little surprised Xlibris snuck into third place ahead of their cousin, AuthorHouse.

The Bowker statistics do show another significant growth area in the non-traditional category—the role publishers like BiblioBazaar (272,930 titles), Books LLC (224,460) and Kessinger Publishing LLC (190,175 titles) are playing in the publishing industry. Take out just these three publishers from the non-traditional equation, and the resulting 76,883 does not look quite so dominating for all those author solutions services. What remains a factor, which cannot be ignored, in spite of the three noted publishers above, is the extraordinary rate of growth in the non-traditional category—a 181% increase on the 2008 figure.

Roll on 2010.


Bowker on their report:

Numbers are gathered as a result of Bowker’s maintenance of the industry’s bibliographic database Books In Print and reported through PubTrack Production Trends Analysis. Books In Print is the only bibliographic database with more than 9 million U.S. book, audiobook and video titles. It is widely regarded throughout the publishing industry as the most authoritative and comprehensive source of bibliographic data available worldwide, and has been a trusted source of information in North America for more than 50 years. Audiobooks and E-books are excluded. If changes in industry estimates occur, they will be reflected in a later published report.
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