Smashwords (Smashwords, Inc.), based in Los Gatos, California, is an e-book-distribution platform founded by Mark Coker for independent authors and publishers. The company began public operation in 2008.
Authors and independent publishers upload their manuscripts as electronic files to the Smashwords service, which converts them into multiple e-book formats for reading on various devices. Once published, the books are made available for sale online at a price set by the author or indie publisher.
Coker began work on Smashwords in 2005 and officially launched the website in May 2008. Within the first seven months of launching, the website published 140 books. Due to initially low profits, Coker switched to a distribution model that offered retailers a "30% commission in exchange for digital shelf space". Smashwords achieved a profit in 2010 and has partnered with Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony. Smashwords also uploaded books into KDP, Amazon.com's e-book publishing website.
In 2012, Smashwords announced that it would partner with 3M Cloud Library, which would allow for the option for their authors' books to be available in libraries, and that it had reached about 127,000 titles by 44,000 authors.
"Mark was very forward-thinking, and the way he set the company up appeals to independent publishers," said Joel Friedlander, a book designer with Marin Bookworks in San Rafael and an expert in self-publishing. "There's no cost, no frills, it's a quick way to get your e-book into print, and you can do it in a day."
Coker, a former Silicon Valley publicist, started Smashwords in 2008 with the lofty goal of using technology to democratize publishing—allowing writers to appeal directly to readers without having to deal with gatekeepers such as agents and editors.In keeping with this mission, Smashwords applies no editorial screening. The only e-books Coker refuses to distribute are ones that contain plagiarism, illegal content or incitement to racism, homophobia or violence.
Smashwords does not use digital rights management.