Global publishing back on front foot

Global publishing back on front foot

The world's largest pub­lishers have begun growing again after weathering the global recession over the past three years, with ­Pearson once again emerging as top dog.

According to the annual ranking of global pub­lishing performance, compiled on behalf of Livres Hebdo, Buchreport, Publishers Weekly and The Bookseller, publishing revenues in 2010 have overtaken the total ­revenues for 2008 and 2009.

Sales of the top 10 publishers are now at €31bn (£27bn), having dipped below the 2007 figure of €29.3bn in both 2008 and 2009; while sales of the top 20 publishers reached €42bn, the first time they have broken the €40bn threshold since 2007.

Pearson leads the pack as the world's largest book publisher, powered in 2010 by its education divisions but also by Penguin which notched up a "record year" last year, with sales up 6%, taking it above revenue of £1bn for the first time in its history. However, Pearson continues to be a rarity­ among the largest publishers, one of only two groups in the top five with a sizeable trade wing. The London-based group is hotly pursued on the list by professional and STM publishers Reed Elsevier, ThomsonReuters, and Wolters Kluwer, each of whom now has sales well above their 2008 levels. Random House's parent Bertelsmann comes in sixth despite sales having fallen since 2008, and is one place ahead of Hachette Livre, with sales growth since 2008 of less than 1%.

Within the top 10, eight groups registered year-on-year sales growth—only Bertelsmann and Hachette Livre did not—while only two groups—Bertelsmann and Scholastic—reported sales below their 2008 levels. The ranking shows no change within the top six, with McGraw-Hill Education moving into seventh position at the expense of Planeta. Cengage Learning and Scholastic are, however, new entrants at nine and 10 respectively.

Among the 10 largest groups, professional and STM publishing is the largest sector, with 43% of the total revenues, followed by trade with 31%, and education at 26%. However, the ranking shows how education has grown in size over the past three years with the sector contributing sales of €6.9bn in 2008 to €8.2bn, representing growth of 18%. Trade publishing has grown 9% over the same period, but its share of the total market has diminished from 35% to 31%.

The survey is in marked contrast to bookselling, where a number of brands have fallen foul of the recession and the shift to digital, including Borders, Angus & Robertson and British Bookshops. Others such as Barnes & Noble and Waterstone's continue to struggle. Of the top booksellers, only Amazon has grown its sales over the equivalent time frame.

The Livres Hebdo global ranking of the publishing industry is compiled by consultant Ruediger Wischenbart and co-published by The Bookseller, Buchreport (Germany) and Publishers Weekly (US). The ranking is based on publishers' own reported revenues, and only based on "publishing" sales, including books, journals and professional information in commercially-run databases.

A full report, including the top 50 ranking and analysis, will be published in The Bookseller and online next week.