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World-leading publishing companies in book publishing market

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Book publishing is the largest media and entertainment industry. With an estimated value of US$151 billion, books have out-distanced music (US$50 billion), video games (US$63 billion), magazines (US$107 billion) and even film and entertainment (US$133 billion).

The six largest book markets globally.
Figure – The six largest book markets globally. Data source: Rüdiger Wischenbart, Global e-book report, 2014.

For a long time, the book publishing industry was controlled by a small number of players situated mainly in North America and Europe, before evolving into a truly global business, early in the 21st century. In a growing number of emerging economies (such as China and Brazil), the market for books and publishing has expanded over the past two decades.

At global level, however, the industry is still dominated by just six countries. In 2014, the USA was the largest book market in the world, followed by China, Germany, Japan, France and the UK. Together, they account for almost two thirds of global value created by publishers. Interestingly, China has now become the world’s second largest market overtaking Germany and Japan, which had been competing for this position for decades (see Figure).

Most importantly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to consider book publishing (and reading) separately from the adjacent content and media industries. Nevertheless, as yet, e-books are a critical factor only in a relatively small number of markets. These are led by the USA (13%) and the UK (11.5%), with Germany (5%) developing more recently. These are, however, key markets for the industry, both because of their size and because they host the headquarters of many of the global leaders in trade publishing (see Table).

Table – World-leading publishing companies by turnover (2010, million euros)

Rank Company Country Ownership Country of ownership Revenue
1 Pearson UK Pearson UK 6 102.09
2 Reed Elsevier UK/NL/US Reed Elsevier UK/NL/US 5 387.47
3 Pearson Education UK Pearson Education UK 4 880.51
4 Thomson Reuters USA The Woodbridge Company Canada 4 297.93
5 Wolters Kluwer NL Wolters Kluwer NL 3 556.00
6 Lexis Nexis NL Reed Elsevier UK/NL/USA 3 073.12
7 Bertelsmann DE Bertelsmann DE 2 897.00
8 Elsevier Science UK/NL/USA Reed Elsevier UK/NL/USA 2 350.35
9 Hachette Livre FR Lagardère FR 2 165.00
10 McGraw-Hill Education USA McGraw-Hill Education USA 1 835.46

(Data source: European Commission, Analysis of the media and content industries: The publishing industry, 2012.)

Source: Ivana Katsarova, E-Books: Evolving markets and new challenges, European Parliamentary Research Service, Briefing February 2016. © European Union, 2016.

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