New BookMap Initiative: Trying To Chart the World Publishing Industry

In News by Porter Anderson

Looking to attract stakeholders and financial contributions, BookMap, an effort to gather and analyze global book publishing data, is launched.

Image – iStockphoto: Maxger

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Valuing the Worldwide Markets at €122 Billion
In order to “produce a broader and more complete picture of where the industry is going,” publishing consultant Rüdiger Wischenbart in Vienna tells Publishing Perspectives, “we invite publishers and other stakeholders to join in by both supporting BookMap and becoming members of its advisory board.”

BookMap, which was announced to coincide with Frankfurt Book Fair, aims to collect market data and information on various book markets and provide the industry with trends and insights on global book publishing.

BookMap “already has a cooperation going with leading educational institutions,” Wischenbart says, “like Oxford Brookes University in the UK, Lieden in the Netherlands, France’s Sorbonne, and the University of Ljubljana” in Slovenia.

The project is set up as a nonprofit company in Austria, under Wischenbart’s consultancy Member organizations, he says, are making contributions to the program of between €500 and €4,000, according to their size.

“The main goal,” Wischenbart says, “is to find publishers and any other interested stakeholders to join the effort by contributing money and serving on the project’s advisory board.

“Our ambition is to find active members and supporters ranging from the big corporations to independents, industry service and trade organizations, and—why not—interested individuals.” Benefits are keyed on the amount of contribution.

Rüdiger Wischenbart at Frankfurt Book Fair’s CEO Talk. Image: Frankfurter Buchmesse, Bernd Hartung

While he has produced the Global Ebook Report annually, and directs the Klopotek-backed Publishers’ Forum conference in Berlin each spring, Wischenbart is looking for a wider purview here, he says. And in launching the project, Wischenbart has produced an initial report in association with Mariana Bueno, Carlo Carrenho, and Michaela Anna Fleischhacker, called “How Big is Global Publishing?”

The answer comes in the second sentence of the introduction: “Honestly, we don’t know exactly how big overall the international book markets are.”

Indeed, as globalization progresses in publishing, this factor dogs the industry on the world scale—with so many distinctions from market to market—and on the national scale where, for example, the dominance of online sales for ebooks can mean that analysts must operated without hard sales figures.

Wischenbart’s report estimates “the worldwide market value at consumer prices at around €122 billion (US$143.4 billion).  As such, the report says, “book publishing is bigger than music, video games, or filmed entertainment, roughly equal to newspaper publishing, yet clearly smaller than in-home video entertainment, which is almost double that size.”

And while “not sliding as badly as the newspaper or consumer magazine industry,” the introduction reads, publishing is “certainly not growing, either” on the world scale, “as are video games, in-home video entertainment, or even cinema.”

The program draws its figures from “professional trade organizations, trade publications, the publishing industry, plus a few public institutions,” writes Wischenbart in the report, and he cautions that “we lack any standard definitions of what is to be counted as publishing, as a title, or for what is included by national data aggregators, and whatnot.” Many apples and many oranges are rolling around here, in other words.

“Confronted with inconsistent data, we did our best to verify, for each number, what it represents. But we must be clear that in many instances, we had to work with estimates, extrapolations, and also with figures that are between one and five years old.

“What we put into this report is the best that we could find.”

This refreshing candor about a methodology with many unavoidable weak spots, may, of course, be rewarded by more reliable pictures of the world industry if the support of BookMap contributors makes more accurate assessments available in time.

And at the outset, several points of interest are included in the introductory report. Below are several charts that offer a sample of the report, which can be found here.

Graphic: 2017

The World’s 20 Biggest Book Publishing Markets

As seen in the graphic above, the United States, China, and German lead the way in the seven largest markets. When added to the United Kingdom, Japan, France, and India, the report tells us, you’re talking about some 69 percent of the whole.

Once beyond those seven markets, however, Wischenbart encounters “treacherous terrain,” he writes.

And in a logical observation but a good one to make, we read, “The size of a population is mirrored by book markets to a much lesser degree than a given population’s wealth, and subsequently its access to education.”

In this chart from the initial BookMap report, 17 markets are represented with their title production, spending on books per capita, and GDP taken into account. Graphic: 2017

Selected Points on Specific Markets

Some of the interesting lines in the 24-page report are these, with more to be found in the full offering.

  • “The United States’ publishers have not extended their international commerce in books, partly because the leading houses tend to organize this from their London based branch offices, but also because a huge domestic market makes the overseas business appear as a challenging, far away possibility.”
  • “Norway [Frankfurt Book Fair’s 2019 Guest of Honor] has a particularly significant title output per capita, as cultural activities are encouraged by government subsidies, and a high-value market, reflecting generally upscale price levels.”
  • “Austria stands out as an example for several smaller European countries [that have] much bigger neighbors of the same language [as Austria has Germany]. The spending on books is significant, but [these books] are mostly imported from German publishers. The domestic title output reflects available government subsidies for smaller publishers.”
  • “Spain stands out [among mid-sized to large wealthy markets in] its title production, which reflects overseas’ demand for Spanish books.”
  • “Turkey is one of the few examples of a country that has almost caught up with the ‘bookish elite’ club in the middle.”
  • “Poland represents a mid-sized country and economy, with some challenges typical also for the region of Central and Eastern Europe.”
  • “India’s book market continues to grow, comparable to China, yet with special low pricing [and] huge imports, whereas China could build a strong domestic sector. In India, publishing in local ‘Indian’ languages has gained momentum only recently.”
  • “Mexico, and to a lesser degree Argentina, are examples of [markets that have enjoyed] recent government encouragement for local publishers, to strengthen the country against an overweight of imports. But together with other Latin American countries with similar ambitions, a long and economically winding road is expected ahead.”

Despite many sets of “notes on the applied methodology”—which earnestly help clarify how many comparisons of market dynamics on the international scene are based in supposition and assumption—the report is an interesting one when taken as a kind of baseline for future assessments in the BookMap program.

Graphic: 2017

Comparisons and Contrasts

Among the topics that receive specific attention:

Country closeups on:

  • The United States and China
  • France and Germany
  • The United Kingdom and Japan
  • China and Mexico
  • Brazil and Russia
  • Spain and Italy

Here also is a four-market look at China, Brazil, Russia, and Mexico; a look at five non-English-language markets in the European Union, and more.

“The new non-profit BookMap initiative,” the report concludes, “has the ambition to explore some of these paths, not alone, but by taking advantage of existing relevant research efforts, together with, and to the benefit of, interested stakeholders, who include publishers, booksellers and librarians, professional services like book-fairs and conventions, professional educators, or policymakers.”

For more information and to look into participation, see or send an email to

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.