CreateSpace crushing it in self-publishing print book market as rivals see falls

Amazon’s CreateSpace print book service is continuing to dominate the self-publishing market and stretched its lead further in 2016 with a big increase in the number of ISBN-assigned titles published while rivals saw substantial falls.

The figures come in a new report from ISBN monopoly provider Bowker which shows that self-publishing is still on the increase and that since 2011, ISBNs for self-published titles have leapt by 218%.

Bowker says a total of 247,210 ISBNs were assigned to self-published titles in 2011 in the US but in 2016 that figure had risen to 786,935.

A massive 501,405 titles out of that total were published through CreateSpace, an 18% rise from 423,718 in 2015. According to these figures, which cover print and ebooks, CreateSpace is taking 63% of the ISBN-assigned self-publishing market overall.

There was an 11% rise in print ISBNs in 2016 from 2015, which is a lower rate of growth than the previous year’s 34% increase. ISBNs for ebooks fell by 3% in 2016 from 2015 but this followed an 11% fall in 2015 compared with 2014. ISBNs are not required for ebooks and the vast majority of ebooks do not use them.

Beat Barblan, Bowker direct of identifier services, says, “Overall, we believe these numbers point toward an ongoing maturation and stabilization of the self-publishing industry. As the field of self-publishing matures, the quality of both content and format for many of these titles is becoming indistinguishable from those published by traditional houses. In recent years, the number of independent authors topping prominent bestseller lists is a clear indication that readers are embracing author-published titles.”

However, the true exent of Amazon’s dominance in the self-publishing print sector is likely to be even higher as the Bowker research doesn’t appear to include titles published through Amazon’s second print-on-demand service KDP Print which was launched in 2016.

Print books published through CreateSpace can be assigned a free ISBN by Amazon which will result in the book’s imprint being ‘Published by CreateSpace’. But print books published through KDP Print and using a free ISBN will get the imprint ‘Independently published’.

It’s difficult to say whether Bowker has any way of assessing the number of books published in this way. It does have a category of ‘Small Publishers’, which are those who have produced 10 ISBNs or fewer in total over the year. This category totalled 54,206 in 2016, up by 7% on 2015 — this figure is for print and ebooks combined.

The three companies occupying the second, third and fourth places in Bowker’s ISBN Output table all saw falls in ISBN business in 2016 compared with 2015. Second-placed Smashwords’ number of ISBNs used fell by 8% in 2016 to 89,041 from 97,198 while Lulu in third spot dropped by nearly 12% to 75,243 from 85,437 and Blurb took fourth place with its ISBN use plummeting by 30% to 22,957 from 33,188.

These figures cover ISBNs used for print books and ebooks while, of course, CreateSpace is a print-only operation and Smashwords is an ebook-only company.

The print-only figures have CreateSpace on the same total of 501,405 (18% up) with Lulu in second place with 41,907 (5% fall from 2015) and Blurb third on 21,365 (10% fall).

The total for self-published print book ISBNs is 636,624, which means CreateSpace has a 78% share of the print market. ‘Small publishers’ account for 43,755 of the overall print ISBN total, up by 10% on 2015.

Amazon doesn’t feature in the figures for ebook-only ISBNs as it doesn’t require an ISBN for ebooks. Smashwords is top in this section with 89,041 in 2016 (down by 8% on 2015, although this figure only covers up to September 2016), and Lulu is second on 33,336 (down by 5% on 2015).

You can check out the charts for the ISBN figures at Bowker — Self-Publishing in the United States, 2011-2016