Far From Dead: The 10 Largest Book Publishers In The World

If you’re under the impression that reading is a dying art, think again. The top publishing companies in the world prove that reading is still a booming business by pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars every year, regularly topping what they made the year before.

It’s no coincidence either, with film franchises like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games popularizing their novel counterparts, big publishing companies have really cemented their relationship with mainstream audiences. It’s kind of funny to think that movies can help expose people to reading, isn’t it? Well it’s true, and some of the biggest publishers in the world have been able to benefit from this interesting relationship in spades.

But movies aren’t the only reason that publishing companies are thriving these days. Sometimes a book alone can be so amazing that a company can pull in thousands of new readers, seemingly overnight. One of these publishers released a single book that was so controversial that it raised profits by over 75%! That single book brought in millions of dollars more in revenue and became a worldwide hit. If you think hard enough, you could probably figure out which book it was without being told (hint - controversial, popular with the ladies).

But you might be surprised to learn that it’s not only the fiction/nonfiction publishers that are raking in the dough. Some of these companies make a killing by creating published work for business professionals, medical experts, scientists, and educators across the globe. There’s a good chance that if you attended school, you’ve used some of these products yourself. That should offer a clue as to how much reach these companies have.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at what’s so special about these companies, and see just how many millions they’re raking in every year (revenue figures provided by Publishers Weekly).

10 Scholastic (Corp.) – Revenue: $2.14 Billion

Scholastic is the publisher of classic series like Animorphs and Goosebumps. More recently, they’ve had great success with the popular Hunger Games and Harry Potter series as well. They lead the way when it comes to publishing and distributing children’s books, even offering a mail-order service in schools, which makes it easy for young readers to order.

In 2012 they made over $2.14 billion. Some of the money was given away in awards and scholarships during their yearly “Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.” This gives thousands of students the opportunity to practice their skills and earn some money for winning, and fosters the same love of reading that supplies the company’s revenue.

9 Holtzbrinck – Revenue: $2.22 Billion

Holtzbrinck is a German-based publishing group that sells in over 138 countries. The majority of their income comes from their two "Macmillan” publishing divisions, which cover “science and education,” and the more general “publishers” division" – basically fiction and nonfiction. They make about 14% of their income off of business information and newspaper projects, according to their home website.

In 2012, they made over $2.22 billion in revenue.

8 McGraw-Hill Education – Revenue: $2.29 Billion

McGraw-Hill is an “education comes first” publishing company. They’re all about connecting those in the educational field with high quality products that aid in learning. To do this, they have two main divisions: one for college level students and one for elementary thru high-school level students. Two of their core-values are diversity and inclusion, which they make clear by employing over 6,000 people worldwide, no doubt a crucial element in their earning about $2.29 billion in 2012.

7 Grupo Planeta – Revenue: $2.60 Billion

Calling Grupo Planeta a publishing company wouldn’t do it justice; it’s really more of a “communication” company. Not only are they the leading publishers in Spanish and Latin markets, they also dabble in newspaper (La Razon), television (Grupo Antena 3), and radio stations (Europa FM). They've also published bestselling author Dan Brown’s book “Inferno” for Spanish reading audiences.

In 2012 they had revenues totalling nearly $2.60 billion, a sizeable increase on their previous year’s earnings.

6 Hachette Livre – Revenue: $2.83 Billion

Based in France, Hachette Livre is among the most diverse publishers out there. In French, Spanish, and English markets they publish for nearly all genres. They've got a wide array of authors under their belt, such as; Tina Fey, Stephanie Meyer, Jon Stewart, Tom Wolfe, Malcolm Gladwell, and many more. Its diversity is nothing short of amazing, and it certainly pays off, with the company recording an impressive revenue of $2.83 billion in 2012.

5 Random House – Revenue: $3.32 Billion

Random House is the publishing company that turned the 50 Shades of Grey series into a worldwide phenomenon, boosting its earnings by nearly 75%. Their motto is to connect readers across the globe with new and old authors alike, and it’s this philosophy that has led leads to them selling over 400 million books each year.

In 2012, they made about $3.32 billion, a sharp increase from their $2.27 billion in earnings the year before.

4 Wolters Kluwer – Revenue: $4.92 Billion

Wolters Kluwer stands out on this list because it focuses solely on professional genres, as opposed to educational or fiction/nonfiction ones. More specifically, they focus on four categories: tax and accounting, legal and regulatory, financial and compliance services, and health. Their content is aimed at helping professionals in those fields by providing actionable advice written by experts.

With revenue of $4.92 billion in 2012, 19,000 employees worldwide, and operations in over 40 countries, Wolters Kluwer certainly earns its place as the fourth biggest publishing company in the world.

3 Thomson Reuters – Revenue: $5.38 Billion

Like Wolters Kluwer, Thomson Reuters focuses on business and professionals rather than education or fiction/nonfiction. They even split their divisions similarly, with devoted to the following: finance and risk, legal, tax and accounting, and intellectual property and science. Thomson Reuters is founded on the principles of independence, integrity, and freedom from bias. This no doubt led to them getting a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index, rated by the Human Rights Campaign itself.

Thomson Reuters made a staggering $5.38 billion in 2012, about two and a half times more than the #10 company on this list.

2 Reed Elsevier – Revenue: $6 Billion

Like the previous two companies on this countdown, Reed Elsevier has four main divisions: science, medical, legal, and business. But those previous companies have nothing on Reed Elsevier’s database for science and medical research. They’re the lead providers for those subjects, and aim to help practitioners across the globe in the acquisition and application of the knowledge they seek.

Based in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and the United States, they raked in nearly $6 billion in revenue in 2012.

1 Pearson – Revenue: $9 Billion

Pearson is far and away the leader when it comes to publishing on a global scale. In 2012, it managed to pull in over $9 billion in revenue, far more than any other publisher around.

Their motto is to “help people make more of their lives through learning." They achieve this by creating learning based products, and they have several online learning tools to show for it. Schools and colleges use their products all across the United States, solidifying their first place listing here.

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