Power RankingsThe latest quarterly edition of the Digital Book World Ebook Publisher Power Rankings—one of those ratings league tables that corporates love—has appeared, with some welcome news for a couple of the industry’s biggest names—and some less welcome data for them on how well people with no money and corporate might behind them are doing at snarfing their lunch.

“It’s a great feat for a publisher to have even one book make a best-seller list,” editorializes DBW’s Jeremy Greenfield, suggesting that DBW itself is keen to promote the value of its Power Rankings, which work by listing the publishers who have made the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller List in each quarter, and the number of times they have appeared on that list.

By the Power Rankings, Hachette came out tops with 65 appearances and three number one bestsellers, followed by Penguin with 60 appearances and one bestseller, and Random House, with 59 appearances and six bestsellers. Obviously, the Penguin Random House joint entity, not yet reflected in those figures, is going to make a powerful Power Rankings showing in future quarters. Hachette’s strong showing, meanwhile, is no surprise in the light of recent statements by Hachette staffers such as Tim Hely Hutchinson in the UK.

Publishers are naturally keen to garner bragging rights from the likes of the Power Rankings, something which broader media coverage tends to encourage. Forbes‘ coverage of the Power Rankings, for instance—also by Jeremy Greenfield—is entitled “The Best Ebook Publishers of 2013 … so far.” But for me, the more interesting showing in the Power Rankings is the “Self-published” category. Self-published works appeared 44 times in the DBW Ebook Best-Seller List, and produced two number one bestsellers, coming in at fourth place behind the top three publishers already mentioned.

“Self-publishing is gaining momentum,” Greenfield concludes in his Forbes writeup. ” There were 22 appearances on the best-sellers list of self-published work in the first quarter. There were 44 in the second quarter.” And in the DBW Power Rankings coverage itself, he states:

“It was a surprise that self-published titles were No. 4 on this list last quarter. The repeat here is likely no fluke, especially considering there were more self-published best-sellers in the second quarter than in the first — double, in fact.”

Is it really such a surprise? I’ll admit that at times I’ve written in favor of corporate-backed e-publishing versus go-it-alone, but the stats seem to argue otherwise. Obviously all that excitement about self-publishing can’t be entirely down to cultish enthusiasm and me-tooism, then. And despite the efforts of DBW and its people to promote the value of the Power Rankings, with all the ancillary benefits of publisher advertising and sponsorship, subscriptions to the parent publication, delegate sales at the Digital Book World Conference, etc., etc., the figures themselves can’t be ignored.

Even if the biggest publishers are fast learning to play the e-book game, and get solid results and better profits out of it, they are still doing nowhere near as well in publishing e-books as their market cap and huge teams would lead you to expect.

Seems a lot of the power still does lie with the little people, no matter how much DBW and others prefer to focus on the big names.


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