Publisher’s Weekly reports that publication of on demand titles surged past those released by traditional publishers in 2008 – a pretty clear signal that self-publishing is gaining as an outlet, as the publishing industry becomes narrower and narrower in their criteria for traditionally published books. However, this could also be a case of more people learning about self-publishing options, not just about the submissions process for traditional publishers. The fact that self-publishing is gaining credibility is also a factor, as is the publishing industry’s lack of resources for publishing new work. The PW article has this mysterious quote:
Kelly Gallagher, v-p of publisher services for Bowker, said the decline in traditional books reflects not only the difficult economy but the decision by publishers to become smarter and more strategic in the titles they published last year.
“Smarter and more strategic” could be read as dumber and more marketing-driven (if you were being entirely cynical). As has been reported on this site, the publishing industry is rapidly losing money, so “smarter” doesn’t necessarily mean smarter about choosing good titles, but those titles that will be profitable in the short term, which does not suggest great things about traditional publishing’s long term potential. But as mentioned, the growth in on demand titles is not all about traditional publishing’s weaknesses, but about self-publishing’s strengths: the variety of options available.
The jump in on-demand output in 2008 followed on even bigger increase in 2007 when production skyrocketed 462%. Since 2002, production of on-demand titles has soared 774% compared to a 126% increase in traditional titles. Gallagher said the improvement in on-demand printing technology was a major contributor to the growth.
It should be noted as well that print on demand does not automatically equate with self-publishing, as there are publishers that use the technology. So it is growing as a technological platform on many fronts.
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