The Bookseller is reporting today that Bowker has new info on how well self-pub ebooks are doing in the UK:
Self-published titles make up 12% of all e-book sales, according to new findings from Bowker Market Research.
The popularity of self-published titles rises when looking at certain categories, with the self-published share of e-book volume sales more than 20% in areas such as crime, science fiction and fantasy, romance and humour.
That’s an interesting claim, but I’m going to have to call shenanigans. I don’t trust Bowker’s source:
The research is based on Bowker’s regular Books & Consumers survey, which holds monthly interviews with book buyers, questioning around 3,000 consumers each month. The findings were unveiled today (June 7th) at The Literary Consultancy Conference by Steve Bohmer, UK research director at Bowker.
The thing is, I don’t think consumers will be able to answer that question with a high degree of accuracy. It’s on the same level as asking a reader how many ebooks they are buying from which publishers; it’s a question that I doubt the average reader can answer. I know I cannot.
Sure, I could investigate and find an answer but I really would have to investigate first. This is something I could not answer off of the top of my head.
Update: Bowker did do a line by line investigation of consumers’ purchases (link).
But even if Bowker really did do a line-by-line investigation of consumers’ buying habits, how do we know that they properly cataloged all the ebooks purchased?
There’s a growing number of indie digital publishers out there that are using much the same tools as self-publishing authors. (And an FYI: when I write self-pub I usually have these indie digital publishers in mind as well.) Don’t you wonder how Bowker is factoring in those indies? Arguably they should be included in self-pub (it’s a poor label, I know) but the indies are also difficult to tell from legacy publishers.
And that’s not my only issue with this report.
Frankly, I don’t trust Bowker to be able to identify what they cannot accurately measure. Ever since they released a report last October that took incomplete and imperfect data and drew conclusions about the number of self-published books in the US market, I have taken everything Bowker released with a grain of salt.
So what’s the real number? I don’t know. So far as I can tell this isn’t a question that has an accurate statistical answer. What data we do have to answer it is incomplete at best as well as difficult to interpret.
P.S. If someone at Bowker would care to offer more context, I’m all ears. But as it stands this report is not worth the electrons it’s written on.