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Why the boom in self-publishing is a mixed blessing

First published on http://www.nydailynews.com.

It used to be that when you finished your masterpiece, your best bet of getting it published would be to find an agent, float your manuscript across the desks of major publishing houses and hopefully live a rich life of critical acclaim and popular success. That still happens, sometimes, but according to a new report by Bowker — the company that manages ISBNs and bibliographic information for books published in the U.S. — an increasing number of writers are using another, less traditional, method: self publication.

Bowker has the statistics to back this up — and they tell us a great deal about writers’ attitudes towards today’s publishing establishment. The report shows that the number of print and e-books published annually is up a whopping 287% since 2006. The same report found that 148,424 print books were self-published in the U.S. in 2011, which accounts for 43% of all print books published in the US that year. Self-published e-books also exploded last year: Bowker counted 87,201, though the figure is likely much higher. Bowker only counts ISBN numbers, which many ebooks — such as those published by Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service — do not have.

While the numbers are flexible — the fact that a book that has been self-published in both print and ebook formats can be counted twice lends the figures a little ambiguity — it doesn’t take a diploma in mathematics to see that when it comes to getting their work out there, more and more people are doing it themselves.

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