UK leads in global publishing

UK leads in global publishing

British-based publishers topped the world’s global publishing rankings in 2012, making up far more in terms of revenue than rivals from other countries which appear on the Global Top 50, the annual ranking of international publishing’s biggest groups.

The five UK companies on the list—Pearson, Reed Elsevier (which is co-headquartered in London and Amsterdam), Informa, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press—earned €13.39bn (£11.47bn) in 2012, representing 24.5% of what global publishing’s top 50 groups earned overall. UK publishers showed a clean pair of heels to second-placed US, whose eight groups earned €9.13bn.

The US had the most entries on the list, followed by Japan (whose six publishers earned €8.5bn), Germany (five groups, €4.88bn) and France (five groups, €3.27bn).

It has been a remarkably strong year for all five British publishers compared to other territories. Of any country with three or more publishers on the list with revenues which can be measured year on year, only the UK had each of its publishers showing positive growth, ranging from Elsevier’s 1.91% rise to OUP’s impressive 9.83% jump.

Contrast that with publishers in Japan—after the US, the world’s second biggest books market—that had a disastrous 2012. Five of the country’s six groups had double-digit drops on 2011, with only manga powerhouse Kadowaka Publishing showing a year-on-year rise (up 8.62% to €756m). Last year’s 47th ranked group, Tokyo-based Shinchosha, tumbled out of the Top 50 after a 24% loss in revenue.

Part of the reason for all five British publishers’ growth is that apart from Pearson’s Penguin division, they are all STM, education or academic businesses. This mirrors a trend of trade revenues falling among publishing’s biggest players. Trade sales slid to a 25% share of the top 10 groups’ revenue; this has been a steady decline from the 30% trade revenue earned in 2009. STM revenue share remained relatively flat on 2011 at 42%, while education was at 34%, a rise from 30% in 2008.

Still, if one stripped out British publishing’s “big four” trade groups from their parent companies, three would be in the Top 50. Largardère annouced that its Hachette UK and Australia business earned €436m in 2012, which would be good enough for 33rd place. While Bertelsmann and Pearson do not strip out regional performance, BookScan sales alone in 2012 would put Random House UK in 44th place (€263m) and Penguin in 50th (€219m).

The top four publishers have remained unchanged for three years, which undoubtedly will continue in 2013. As discussed in detail in the Top 50 feature (see page 20), the addition of Penguin to Random House will not move RH’s position, or even challenge the top four. Pearson—whose education business alone chalked up €5.63bn in 2012—looks set to retain its number one spot, even without its stake in Penguin.

The “Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry” is an initiative of Livres Hebdo, Paris, researched by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting, and co-published with buchreport (Germany), The Bookseller (UK) and Publishers Weekly (US), with yearly updates since 2007.