Tough Times, But Europe Is Coping Best: The Global Publishers Ranking Report

In Feature Articles by Andrew Wilkins

By Andrew Wilkins

Pearson is the largest conglomerate in publishing, with a turnover of over five billion euros, and all but three of the top 10 publishing businesses are European, according to the recently released 2009 Global Ranking of World Publishing, which lists and assesses the world’s top 52 publishing conglomerates.

Now in its third year, the ranking was started by French book journal Livres Hebdo to create a platform for assessing the state of the international industry each year, and is now jointly published with The Bookseller in the UK, Publishers Weekly in the USA and Germany’s Buchreport.

Yesterday, representatives from the above journals (pictured right) assembled in Hall 8.0 Clients Lounge to discuss the implications of this latest publication, which shows trade publishing in particular is having a tough time.

Year-on-year data meant discernible patterns were now emerging, noted Fabrice Piault of Livres Hebdo. European publishing businesses were showing the most resistance to the global financial downturn, while most of the increase in turnover was coming from what he broadly defined as ‘electronic sales’—a category that included online bookselling as well as sales of digital content.

Brian Kenney of Publishers Weekly also noted “explosive growth” in digital sales, particularly in the trade publishing sector, where it now represented 3–4% of the US trade market, compared to just 1% last year. He nominated the Kinlde as the big driver and anticipated further growth driven by the Apple iPhone, and the forthcoming releases of the third generation Sony eReader and Barnes & Noble’s new proprietary reader.

The report’s researcher, Rüdiger Wischenbart of Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting, noted that, while the ranking is still currently dominated by European and North American companies, ‘there are quite a few Asian companies growing just under the threshold.” These include China’s Higher Education Press, which would be ranked higher except for the relatively low turnover it makes from running its business in a low cost economy. Wischenbart said he expected future rankings to feature both Chinese and Russian conglomerates.

The Livres Hebdo Top Ten Publishers

1. Pearson
2. Reed Elsevier
3. Thomson Reuters
4. Wolters Kluwer
5. Bertlesmann
6. Hachette Livre
7. McGraw-Hill
8. Grupo Planeta
9. De Agostini
10. Scholastic

Source: Livres Hebdo’s 2009 Ranking of World Publishing

About the Author

Andrew Wilkins

Andrew Wilkins is the director of Wilkins Farago, an independent, Melbourne-based book publisher. Until 2008, he was publisher of Australia's book industry magazine, Bookseller+Publisher. He travels regularly throughout the Asia-Pacific region.