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The principal scorekeeper for the U.S. book publishing industry has always been Bowker, our national ISBN agency. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, released self-publishing statistics to the media for the first time in 2011, and the "explosive growth" of self-publishing was widely reported. Bowker's most recent data from 2013 recorded 458,564 self-published titles, print and ebooks both, accounting for a huge portion of the U.S.’s overall book production.
Hundreds of thousands of people today can think of themselves as "authors." Some, low in number but high in visibility, have reached national best-seller lists and made themselves a fortune. But most of these authors have simply written that novel, genealogy, or local history that was always inside them.
All have benefitted from a new industry that has bypassed traditional routes to publication. Bowker's Self Published Author.com is one of those services. Self Published Author.com helps aspiring authors with metadata creation, file conversion, formatting, barcoding, and other components of book production and marketing that have nothing to do with writing and would probably leave most authors at a loss.
In the past, libraries dismissed self-published books as "vanity" publications and safely ignored them. Today that's become harder to do. So many self-published books are now available and equal in quality to the books libraries routinely buy through traditional channels.
Public libraries, in fact, sometimes go out of their way to acquire self-published books. Colorado's Douglas County Libraries put this practice on the national map in a highly-publicized battle against the pricing and use restrictions imposed by traditional publishers for ebooks. Most public libraries don't go as far as the "Douglas County Model," but are willing to buy bestselling self-published books and titles of local interest. Many public libraries also offer services to support local authors who would like to self-publish.
Recently, I was asked to contribute a chapter to the first book published on the subject of self-publishing and library collection development. The book, Self-Publishing and Collection Development: Opportunities and Challenges for Libraries, just published by Purdue University Press, was edited by Wayne State University's Robert P. Holley.
The book’s fourteen chapters were written by academic librarians, public librarians, vendors, and authors. My chapter, "Book Vendors and Self-Publishing," talks about how well (or not) traditional vendor services fit this new publishing model. I also describe what happened when our New Titles Group, then at Ingram, offered a selection of self-published books to our customers. Ingram was the only vendor to try this.
Academic libraries, while interested, have been less engaged than public libraries with self-published books. At ProQuest, our New Titles Group in La Vergne, Tennessee intends on building upon what we learned, and perhaps we'll write a new chapter on vendors serving academic library customers.