In the December 2010 inaugural issue of PW Select, the heads of different self-publishing companies talked about the way e-books were becoming a bigger part of their business. That trend accelerated in 2011, helping to keep the number of titles produced at the major e-book vendors soaring. now has more than 1.8 million titles and reports that during 2011 the number of print book titles in its catalogue grew 9%, while the number of e-book titles rose by 22%. “Self-publishing today is providing more flexibility and opportunities for content owners of all kinds,” says company founder Bob Young. “Lulu is helping them better serve their customers with tools to discover and purchase content no matter the format or medium.”

Lulu is not alone in reporting that e-books are rapidly outpacing printed books among writers who publish their own work. “Digital has had an enormous impact in 2011 and will continue to transform buying and reading habits,” says a spokesperson for Author Solutions. In 2011, e-book unit sales at Author Solutions grew over 425% from 2010, and the company expects similar gains in 2012. By the end of 2011, Authors Solutions will have more than 70,000 e-book titles available on every reading device, and by mid-year 2012, it expects to have 150,000 e-book titles in the market.
The combination of e-books and print books is also driving growth at midsize companies that cater to writers. According to Brent Sampson of Outskirts Press, the company ended 2010 with approximately 6,700 titles listed on Amazon, and in 2011 had more than 8,000 in a combination of print and Kindle editions. Outskirts expects to cross 10,000 titles in 2012.

The trend toward more e-book releases, both from mainstream publishers and their self-publishing counterparts, is changing where readers buy books and how they read them, and self-publishing services are taking advantage of these new outlets.

Early in 2011 the popularity of the iPad motivated Apple to stop selling e-books in its App Store and to open the iBookstore, where it can exercise more control over e-book publishing by the professional and hobbyist alike. Barnes & Noble took a contrary approach in late 2010, announcing its “PubIt!” program, a turnkey Web site that allows nearly anyone to e-publish material using a no-frills file conversion process. Upon completion, the material is sold at for its Nook e-reading device. It now claims more than two million titles available. Lulu is using both outlets to sell its e-book titles, reporting that it has nearly 60,000 e-book titles in distribution across its retail channels including the iBookstore and Nook Bookstore.
Amazon has been driving the growth of self-published e-books through its Kindle Direct Publishing program, which now offers nearly a million titles to readers worldwide, including recent openings in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. KDP has attracted self-publishing authors in droves by paying royalties up to 70% and making it relatively easy for a writer to convert a manuscript in Word format to a legible Kindle edition without paying fees. CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD print publishing arm, offers its customers a more polished file conversion service, from PDF to Kindle format, starting at $59.

According to Amazon, 13 KDP authors have sold more than 200,000 books, and 34 KDP authors have sold more than 100,000 books. “2011 has been an exceptional year for independent publishing. We’ve seen significant growth, and more indie authors and publishers are seeing impressive success. The fact that we’re seeing self-published authors from CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing appear on bestsellers lists is a clear sign of the success of this channel,” says Nader Kabbani, director of independent publishing at Amazon.
Aside from the data provided by Amazon about its KDP authors, few self-publishing services disclose specific numbers of print orders. But they did cite dramatically higher percentages of e-book sales in 2011 than in 2010, helping to fuel a record year whether in terms of new print releases, e-book sales, or both.

“It is truly the best time in history to be an author,” says Kevin Weiss, CEO of Authors Solutions. “Self-publishing and digital technology have created more opportunities for authors around the globe than ever before.”