Is Ebook Self-Publishing Making The Market Its Own?

Is Self-Publishing Winning

The bad news bears are always loud in their opinions that traditionally published books are winning the publishing war and dominating market share against ebooks, and especially over self-published ebooks.

While rarely newsworthy, these opinion articles are frequent. They all beat a similar drum that the self-published ebook market is dying.

But perhaps it is worth taking a step back and thinking about who writes these stories.

Who do they work for, and why are they writing these articles denigrating self-publishing?


The big five publishers

A quick look at the owners of the Big Five book publishers will tell you exactly why these stories are being written so often, and published online as well as in print news media.

It is because the five biggest traditional book publishers are all owned by companies that have either newspapers or television networks within their group. They all want to protect their own.


Hachette Book Group – Owned by the French media company, Lagardère.

HarperCollins Publishers – Owned by the US media company, News Corp.

Macmillan Publishers – Owned by the German media group, Holtzbrinck.

Penguin Random House – Owned by the German media company, Bertelsmann.

Simon and Schuster – Owned by the US media company, CBS Corporation.


So when one reads a headline such as ‘There’s Bad News for E-Readers — And Great News for People Who Still Love Actual Books,’ it makes one think that the ebook market is dying.

Or from the Guardian, ‘The ebook is dead. Long live the ebook’, it sounds even more dramatic in its predictions.

But then a story pops up that is conveniently ignored by those who are writing to protect their employers’ bottom line. ‘Apple says iBooks adding 1M new users a week since being preinstalled on iOS 8’.


So what’s going on with ebooks?

By pulling bits and pieces from media articles, some points are worth interpreting.

On many occasions, I have read reports such as this of declining ebook readers sales as proof of the death of ebooks.

But this is misinformation or spin by those who would like it to be true, such as the Big Five, or bookstore chains which make their money from selling Big Five books.

As this article in Gizmodo rightly points out, ebooks are still doing very well, and it makes this clear point:

“Are eBooks declining? No. These misleading headlines all show either a lack of comprehension or an anti-eBook agenda. If a market is dying, it’s dedicated eReaders, not eBooks, and those are far from the same thing.

Electronic books are going nowhere. They are just not increasing sales at the astronomical rate that they were as people switched to digital. People are increasingly reading on phones and tablets, which have much better screens than when the Kindle first launched, and dedicated eReaders have become a niche device for dedicated readers.”

The simple fact of the matter is that dedicated ereading devices are not being replaced, or even now purchased in the first place by readers of ebooks. In fact, sales of dedicated ereaders such as Kindle is dying fast.

Ebooks can now be read on any number of different devices, whether they are tablets, phablets, phones, or laptops.

Using the decline in Kindle device sales as proof of the death of ebooks is a complete distortion of the truth.

Readers are buying ebooks to read on a wide range of devices. The market is growing, as this article about the UK market confirms.

Long live the ebook – it’s a champion of the printed word’

Self-published ebooks are winning

Don’t believe the bad news bears when they peddle their sour grapes articles of impending ebook and self-publishing doom for their media masters.

They have hated ebooks, Amazon’s Kindle and self-publishing from day one.

But ebooks self-published authors are doing just fine.

Self-published authors have learned how to perfect ebook formatting and quality cover design to compete with any publisher.

They have even grabbed a small foothold for print book sales.

While it is hardly ever reported, and very difficult to prove as Amazon is so secretive, I would be prepared to guess that self-publishers now have a very sizeable chunk of the growing worldwide market in ebook sales.

You only need to take a look at the Kindle Store and Kindle Unlimited to see the signs of success.

Self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP and KDP Select,  as well as Barnes & Noble and Apple iBooks, have made it easy for authors to publish ebooks.

The ebook war between traditional and self-publishing is an odd beast.

One side is still fighting while the other has probably already quietly won.

But there is no need for self-publishers to write articles and denigrate traditional publishing. All they need to do is write books and sell them.


More reading: What Is Metadata? Why is it important for authors?

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

4 thoughts on “Is Ebook Self-Publishing Making The Market Its Own?

  • June 19, 2020 at 1:38 pm

    If only Amazon would routinely pick an author from their stable at random and publicise their titles!

  • March 6, 2020 at 2:31 pm

    Yes, but there’s this impression that ebook platforms, esp Amazon, are not helpful in changing the perception if they don’t shar ehte actual sales and how much ebook makers earn! Are they doing it. I’m not able to find anything from my end!

  • May 23, 2018 at 7:21 am

    People don’t have time to read books the Physical way with all pervasive Internet around, as my ex-neighbour recently says.

    Brilliant Article!!

    And your vivid explanation too ties in with his oneliner opinion in 2018.

  • May 3, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Given the time, effort and money HarperCollins spent through 2015 and 2016 to overhaul their EPUB builds and redesign their entire production workflow in order to build EPUB 3.0.1 files parallel with converting to InDesign, they’ve clearly embraced EPUBs as an equally valid and valuable format.

    Oh, that’s been live and in production for a year now. I’m sure the other four are either doing something similar or will do so when they realise the advantages.


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