Last updated: June 3, 2010 - 1:40pm
Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that's threatening the traditional industry.
Once derided as "vanity" titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment. "If you are an author and you want to reach a lot of readers, up until recently you were smart to sell your book to a traditional publisher, because they controlled the printing press and distribution. That is starting to change now," says Mark Coker, founder of Silicon Valley start-up Smashwords Inc., which offers an e-book publishing and distribution service. Fueling the shift is the growing popularity of electronic books, which few people were willing to read even three years ago. Apple Inc.'s iPad and e-reading devices such as Amazon's Kindle have made buying and reading digital books easy. U.S. book sales fell 1.8% last year to $23.9 billion, but e-book sales tripled to $313 million, according to the Association of American Publishers. E-book sales could reach as high as 20% to 25% of the total book market by 2012, according to Mike Shatzkin, a publishing consultant, up from an estimated 5% to 10% today. It's unclear how much of a danger digital self-publishing poses to the big publishers, who still own the industry's big hits, whether e-book or print. Many big publishers dismiss self-published titles, noting that most disappear, in part because they may be poorly edited and are almost never reviewed.
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