Is Self-Publishing Making The eBook Market Its Own?

Who owns the big five publishers

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-publishing.

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

But perhaps it is worth taking a step back and thinking about who writes these stories, who they work for, and why they are writing them.

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 and in print news media.


Because the five biggest book publishers are all owned by companies that have either newspapers or television networks within their group. Protect your own.

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

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

Macmillan Publishers – Owned by German media group, Holtzbrinck.

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

Simon and Schuster – Owned by 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 ebooks are dying.

Or from the Guardian, ‘The ebook is dead. Long live the ebook‘, it sounds even more dire.

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 here really?

Well, by pulling bits and pieces from media articles there are some points that 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 who 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, as ebooks can now be read on any number of different devices, whether they be 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.

Ebooks are being bought and read on a very wide range of devices and the market is growing, as this article confirms in relation to the UK market.

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

Self-published ebooks are winning.

So 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, who have hated both ebooks and self-publishing from day one.

Ebooks are doing just fine, and while it is hardly ever reported, and very difficult to prove as Amazon are 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.

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.


More reading: What Is Metadata And Why Is It Really Important For You?


Derek Haines

A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms. I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business. Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

2 thoughts on “Is Self-Publishing Making The eBook Market Its Own?

  • 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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