NielsenThe largest publisher of independent e-books may not surprise you.

Bowker named Smashwords the largest publisher for indie e-books in its latest report “Self-Publishing in the United States, 2007-2012,” after publishing about 90,000 e-books in 2012.

When it comes to e-books and printed books, Amazon’s CreateSpace comes in at number one with 131,000 published ISBN registrations, more than double than what it did in 2011 (59,000).

Bowker based the data on ISBN registrations, which is handled by Bowker. More than 50 publishers were mentioned in the report.

Author Solutions was another name that popped up often with divisions or imprints of the company often making the top 10. Author Solutions printed about 48,000 e-books and print books in 2012, which was down from 52,000 the year before.

Not all books carry an ISBN, but Smashwords says that 92 percent of its books have the unique identifier.

“Although I’m pleased to see Smashwords come in at number one, I’m even more excited about what Bowker’s overall data says about the rise of self-publishing,” Smashwords founder Mark Coker wrote in a recent blog post. “Indie authors are taking publishing matters into their own hands.

“The three most essential requirements of professional publishing – the printing press, the access to retail distribution, and how-to knowledge of professional publishing best practices – are now freely available to all indie authors. Smashwords is committed to providing writers these tools.”

One of Smashwords newest tools is Dropbox integration. Readers will see a new feature on the site “Send to Dropbox” that will transfer purchases to the Dropbox cloud. Dropbox works on many tablets, smartphones and reading devices, giving the option of reading stories on the go.

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Editor. Writer. Social media specialist. Reader. Video game player. Sports lover. Card Collector. "I used to be a library junkie with books piled on my nightstand. I’d be constantly renewing books until I finished all of them. There had to be a way to escape the clutter. That’s when I discovered e-book apps for my old Blackberry. I bought plenty of books and read and read and read. I even developed what I called ‘Blackberry Eye,’ small wrinkles under my eyes from staring down at my phone all day."


  1. Smashwords isn’t a traditional publisher. Technically, it’s a digital distributor. But it fills many of the roles of a publisher, standing between the author and the market and handling the money from sales. It even gets listed as the publisher on some retail outlets.

    And for many writers, it supplies an ISBN, which is another mark of a publisher. That’s how Bowker got involved in this.

  2. Hi all. My thanks to Teleread for this piece.

    In our blog post announcing the Bowker report (click my website link to view it), I steered clear of the “publisher” label because I’ve never considered Smashwords a publisher in the conventional sense. We consider the author the publisher. The author retains all rights and we serve at their pleasure in our role as the publishing and distribution platform.

    But as Michael correctly pointed out, we do play some of the functions of a publisher. We take the author’s manuscript and produce it into sellable formats. We manage the distribution to retailers and we aggregate the author payments and tax reporting. We advocate for our authors and books, and we’re active in their merchandising. We’re always working to open up new markets and new opportunities for our authors. Similar to the very best traditional publishers, we don’t sell anything to authors. We invest in the book and the money flows in one direction, from Smashwords to the author. If we don’t sell books, we don’t earn income.

    We also offer a lot of value-added capabilities that publishers do not offer. Does that make us more of a publisher than publishers, or less of one? 🙂

    Adding to the potential labeling confusion, we purchase large blocks of ISBNs from Bowker, and we make these ISBNs available for free as a benefit for authors who use our distribution services. Our latest purchase was for a block of 200,000. Since we purchased the ISBNs, and these are the same type of block that a Harper Collins or any other publisher would purchase, Bowker considers us the publisher of these books for the purposes of their records. The “publisher” label is more a matter of convenience than anything else. “Publisher” to Bowker, near as I can tell, is the company or person who released the book out into the world. The ISBN and the label have no bearing on the author as the true owner of the book, nor does the ISBN have any bearing on copyright.

    Depending on one’s definition of publisher, the Bowker survey listed many companies for which “publisher” isn’t a perfect term. Createspace, Author Solutions and PublishAmerica were there.

    Since the survey included a motley bunch, I chose the word “producer” in our announcement. I don’t like that term either because it’s imperfect as any other. But I thought it was generic enough to accurately capture the one thing that all of the companies had in common – we help authors release books. Beyond that, it doesn’t really bother me if many of our authors consider Smashwords their publisher as long as they understand up front that we’re a different breed than the traditional sort.

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