"Self-published” is not in any way analogous to “published”: There’s a very interesting discussion going on over at Reddit that’s very similar to something a line of thought I’ve had for quite a while.
The Internet has made it very easy to “publish” writing, in some form. Pre-Internet, to get “published” meant to send a book off to a publisher, go through a long vetting process, and see your book on the shelves of a store somewhere. Not anymore. With Lulu, you can get a hardcopy from a PDF, and with Amazon, you can have your book distributed as an ebook quite easily (it doesn’t even have to be a book – you can “publish” a glorified blog post as a Kindle Single, even).
So, does this mean you’re “published”?
Nononno! Being published is not just about having a hard copy of one’s work – that misses the forest for the trees. Being published is about convincing a third party that your work is worthwhile enough to support and make public. It’s about earning the respect of a group completely independent of you and having them fund the dissemination of your ideas.
Some of the comments are quite good and thought-provoking:
I was just having a discussion on this yesterday in my library studies class. A lady in the class kept referring to herself as a ‘published author’ and when I investigated further I found that all she does is chuck her romance novels up on her website as eBooks.
[...] I came here to say something like this, specifically about the wrench that sites like kickstarter throw into the works. As the original post states, “Being published is about convincing a third party that your work is worthwhile enough to support and make public” but traditional publishing houses are no longer the only viable way of doing that.