Academic, Educational and Professional Publisher of the Year


The sudden shift to remote teaching and working meant the academic, educational and professional publishing sectors were disrupted more than most in 2020. But these six companies all turned a crisis into an opportunity for evolution and innovation, using digital content and delivery not only to preserve their sales but to make home-based learning easier for grateful students, academics and parents.


Bloomsbury Academic

This is Bloomsbury’s third win in this category in nine years: testament to consistently strong growth and innovation that not even a pandemic could disrupt. In fact, the closure of universities and schools, and a sudden shift to remote learning, played to Bloomsbury’s strengths in digital resources, including its deep archives of specialist research content and e-books. It moved quickly to meet the needs of students, teachers, academics and librarians, opening up free access to a swathe of its databases, backed by an effective Read On campaign that promoted its support for home study.

New initiatives over the year included a Bloomsbury Academic Podcast and major new resources in art, religion, dance, architecture and filmmaking that showed the breadth of its content. It continued a steady programme of acquisitions, adding left-wing indie publisher Zed Books to its list and completing the integration of theatre specialist Oberon. It made progress on inclusivity, revamping commissioning and outreach policies to diversify its output; and moved forward on sustainability issues, including a switch to renewable energy.

There tends to be little overlap between trade and academic publishing, but in 2020 Bloomsbury showed a rare mastery of both. “To grow sales in such a tough year for all its staff, customers and partners is remarkable,” said the judges. “Bloomsbury is an all-round smart and creative business with timely and topical publishing… there’s a strategic element to everything it does.”

The judges applauded all the nominees for their resilience and support for academic communities around the world. “These are uplifting and inspiring publishers who have done great things in the pandemic—not just for themselves but for many others,” they said.

The Shortlist

  • Bloomsbury Academic
    Bloomsbury’s academic and professional divisions have been shortlisted for this Award in nine of the last ten years, and won it twice. Like all the publishers here, it moved nimbly to support the remote requirements of lecturers, teachers, libraries and students in 2020, opening up much of its online content. Strong growth in digital sales more than made up for compromised print distribution, and it continued its steady expansion through acquisition with the addition of left-wing political and social sciences publisher Zed Books.
  • Cambridge University Press
    The UK’s oldest publisher responded in very modern ways to the pandemic, providing free access to many textbooks, worksheets and digital platforms. A new Higher Education platform, a ‘Supporting Every Teacher’ campaign and practical advice for remote teaching and learning were all valued by academics and students. Beyond Covid it launched the major new ‘Cambridge Shakespeare,’ platform, accelerated transitions to Open Access models and set the sector’s standards on big issues like diversity and green practice, winning the first ever Sustainability Award at the IPG’s Independent Publishing Awards.
  • Collins Learning
    Another long-established name and familiar presence on this shortlist, HarperCollins’ Collins division supported the younger end of the home-learning market in 2020. Sales of its Easy Learning series soared at the start of the Spring lockdown, at one point taking 36 of the top 100 spots on Amazon’s sales rankings. Despite school closures, the Big Cat reading series increased both domestic primary and international licensing sales, and reached the milestone of 1,000 titles. Collins gave away several million pounds worth of resources for children too.
  • Jessica Kingsley
    Three years on from its acquisition by Hachette, Jessica Kingsley found a good balance of the distinctive personality of an independent and the powerful resources of a corporate. Its digital and audiobook sales grew substantially, and it extended its international reach by ramping up rights sales and entering the Indian market. Its titles on mental wellbeing proved ideal for an unsettling year, and it added to the impressive diversity of its list by launching the JKP Writing Prize for transgender and non-binary writers.
  • Kogan Page
    Kogan Page is shortlisted for this Award for the fourth year in a row, and flies the flag for the professional sector. With so much disruption to working habits, 2020 could have been a very difficult year for a business focused publisher, but Kogan Page’s agile and multi-format approach meant sales held up very well, especially on the digital side. Like most publishers, its own workforce adapted successfully to the pressures of remote working, pivoting quickly to online marketing and rights selling.
  • Princeton University Press
    This is the first British Book Awards nomination for Princeton University Press, two decades on from the launch of its European arm. Activity in 2020 included a major digitisation programme, the development of both in-house and licensed audio publishing, and some notable successes in trade as well as academic channels. It also took decisive action on diversity, using scholarships, paid internships and fellowships to attract people who might not otherwise consider publishing as a career, and offering ‘Global Equity Grants’ for writers from under-represented backgrounds.