smashwords growth 2008-2014

Mark Coker of Smashwords has shared a year end review that contains some interesting nuggets for the ebook author and ereader community, in among all the upbeat reporting on his firm’s continuing success. Though as it happens, one of the nuggets is the success of Smashwords – and what that says about the state of ebook publishing and self-publishing.

For one thing, Smashwords’ end-of-year progress graph shows a pretty uninterrupted upward curve in both authors using the service and particularly, titles published. The platform broke the 100,000 mark in number of authors in 2014, with 101,300 reported by Coker, and titles published peaked at 336,400, a 22 percent y-o-y growth, according to Smashwords. You’d have to look elsewhere to see any sign of a slowdown in the self-publishing boom.

Also, critically, “for the fourth year in a row, Smashwords maintained profitability.  Profitability is important to our authors and publishers because it allows us to reinvest in the development of new tools and capabilities to serve our authors and publishers.” It also means that Smashwords will likely continue to be around as a going concern and a platform.

Coker takes a sort of hit at Amazon in the course of his piece. “Authors who fully distributed their titles with Smashwords were partially insulated from the dramatic sales drops many Amazon authors reported following the introduction of Kindle Unlimited.  If you know indie authors who only upload to Amazon, invite them to diversify their distribution with Smashwords.” I’m not sure it’s exactly fair to pin that sales drop on Kindle Unlimited, but yes, as any investment advisor will tell you, it does pay to diversify.

So, while Coker may be busy applauding himself with references to the likes of Forbes, Bowker, and INC Magazine – which “named Smashwords to its INC 500 list of America’s fastest growing private companies … They named Smashwords the #1 fastest-growing media company” – this is in fact good news for the whole electronic publishing and self-publishing ecosystem. Coker and Smashwords may or may not act virtuously and in the best interests of authors, and may or may not be the same as any other commercial player, but at least they are another game in town, and clear evidence that the whole proposition is viable and still growing.


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