Monday, April 28, 2008

400,000 Titles Published!

Rachel Donadio in The NYTimes book review section has an essay on the expansion of publishing. As she points out, if reading is generally going down hill this isn't stopping people from adopting self-publishing as a hobby. "Publishing" a book is like putting your photo collection on flickr now-a-days. It is so easy and the hurdles so low that anyone with a half baked idea is doing it. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I happen to believe that the creativity, the experiences and the expression evident in many of these books will become a reference point for our age. Just as letters between family members shone light on a family's history, future generations will browse the published output of family members. I want my parents to do this.

On the other hand, my view may be too prosaic; since many of these self-publishers still think their titles will become the next best seller. As mentioned in the article, the potential for titles to be on display at B&N garners considerable attention and revenues from their legions of authors. So, there is some delusion but the self-publishing market is estimated to be worth over $1.3billion (although, regretably I can't recall the citation for this number) and deserves significant attention from all segments of the publishing community. As I have suggested before, one of the major publishing houses is going to get into this segment in a big way (Xlibris aside).

As for the number of titles published annually, the absolute number is meaningless without explanation as it grows by 35% from 2006-2007. In order to draw any analysis from this number of published titles the number would have to be broken down considerably. Impressive as the number is it is noted for effect only.

1 comment:

Marion Gropen said...

Sadly, the difference between self-publishing and using a "self-publishing company" tends to go unnoticed in all of the recent articles.

Certainly, there are plenty of self-publishers out there who are producing books that are no better than those produced by the "self-publishing companies," but there are also plenty of true self-publishers that make the effort required to produce a quality book, and to compete on even terms with those books brought out by mainstream houses.

You probably own some of their books yourself, without ever having noticed their origin.

I thought that the most prescient part of that article was the passing reference to a need for a way to sieve through the mass of new titles for those we each will want.

I very much agree that we need some sort of mechanism for helping us sort through the masses of books that are now available and to find the ones that we'll love. The flood hasn't even really started yet, but it is coming, given the structural changes in our industry.

More, we can't put the onus on our customers and expect them to cope. The responsibility for connecting readers and books must reside with publishers and, perhaps, retailers, if we want reading to stay off the sidelines.