Bowker Now Claims 625,327 US Indie Books Published in 2015, and Other Meaningless Factoids

6093694418_a9edc56174_bWhen Bowker released its annual report (PDF) on ISBNs used by indie authors in the US in 2015, it didn’t tell us anything useful besides the fact that indie authors still weren’t using ISBNs for their ebooks, just for their print editions. (This is why I didn’t cover the report, but instead used it to write a more important story on the decline of Author Solutions.)

The report showed that 153k ebooks had ISBNs, and 573k print books, and that meant that at least 400k print titles either did not have a matching ebook version, or that the ebook version lacked an ISBN.

Given that it is not uncommon for ISBNs to be issued for a section of a book as well as the whole book, and that we already knew that indie authors regularly don’t use an ISBN on their ebooks, the ISBN count doesn’t actually tell us anything useful.

And now our collection of useless data is slightly more complete.

PP revealed on Tuesday that Bowker had crunched its data again and found that there around 625k unique titles with ISBns last year (meaning, if a title had multiple ISBNs, it was counted only once).

There were at least 625,327 self-published books published in the United States in 2015, according to Bowker, the US agency for the administration of the ISBN.

We believe that this is the first time such a number has been known. It is, to the best of our knowledge, the most authoritative count of indie titles published in a single year.

It does not include indie works that don’t have ISBNs registered to them. But to our knowledge, it now stands as the single best indicator of the size of the discernible indie market in the USA.

I have to agree with that last point; while this data has no use it is still the least useless of all the data on the size of indie publishing.

But I have now idea what Porter is getting at with the first point; while it is generally true, Bowker’s data doesn’t support that conclusion.

image by Ole Husby

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Fjtorres8 October, 2016

    One often neglected problem is that not only do a majority of Indies skip ISBNs, an uncertain amount of “self-published” titles aren’t: Many of those ISBN-bearing “self-published” titles are from vanity press victims or agent-managed operations.

  2. Marion Gropen9 October, 2016

    Fjtorres’ point is very well chosen. A lot of the so-called self-published titles are actually done by Pay to Publish operations.

    If you want an earlier, but extremely good count of self-published titles, I suggest you look at a 1997 (pre-ebook) report, called The Rest of Us. It was done for BISG and the IBPA (under it’s old name of PMA).

    It studied the 53,000 micro-publishers, who were almost all self-publishing, even then.

    They were almost all profitable, and functioning, ongoing concerns. And they were bringing out hundreds of thousands of titles per year.

    1. Fjtorres9 October, 2016

      Typically, when you see a report of an author complaining of how expensive it is to selfpublish it is from a vanity press victim. True selfpubs do their homework and avoid ripoffs.

  3. […] Bowker Now Claims 625,327 US Indie Books Published in 2015, and Other Meaningless Factoids (The Digital Reader) […]

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