On page B6 of today's Journal, there's a story titled "Author Solutions to Acquire Rival Self Publisher iUniverse" which goes on to touch on the details of the deal and offer a few thoughts about the subsidy publishing (also known as vanity publishing) world.
Neither Author Solutions nor iUniverse are self publishers. A self publisher is an individual who publishes his or her own books. What Author Solutions and iUniverse do is sell a service where they "publish" books for authors who pay them a fee. Publishing and selling books in the traditional sense is not their business model, selling services to authors is their business model. They are Author Services Companies.
What's more, the authors who use them, are not self published. They are published by those author services companies, who appear as the publisher of record in Books-In-Print, on Amazon, on the book cover, etc. It's a growing business, and it's sometimes an ideal match for authors who write books with limited commercial potential and no ambition to become publishers. But let's be clear about language usage here, none of the players involved are involved in self publishing, and none of the companies involved are self publishers.
I wasn't trying to be snarky by putting "publish" in quotes when referring to to Author Solutions and iUniverse. I was just trying to point out to the editors of the Journal that language use matters, and while words obviously have different meanings in different contexts, sometimes they are simply misapplied. As far as I'm concerned, authors who pay Author Solutions or iUniverse to have a book published are in fact published, but most of the trade industry doesn't agree with me. Maybe we can at least agree that they aren't self published.