It’s time for a semi-annual reminder that the Big Five US trade publishers aren’t as big as news coverage would lead you to you believe. Instead, the Big Five get press all out of proportion to their size largely as a result of lack of nuance in the coverage and their misdeeds (the antitrust suit over agency pricing, for example).
PW published its annual list on Friday of the world’s largest book publishers. Pearson, ThomsonReuters, Reed Elsevier, and Wolters Kluwer top the list, with Penguin Random House coming in fifth.
With $4 billion in annual revenue, PRH is the largest of the Big Five. It is about as large as combined revenues of Hachette and HarperCollins, which came in 8th and 13th, respectively.
PRH is about five times the size of Simon & Schuster (#29 on the list), the smallest of the Big Five. And PRH is also over three times the size of Georg von Holtzbrinck (#10), the German publishing conglomerate which owns Macmillan.
The next time you hear the Big Five referred to as “Penguin and the following four”, this is why.
And while I have your attention, be sure to keep this list in mind the next time someone predicts the death of publishers. While the Big Five are probably going to be slayed by ebooks and the shift to digital consumption, there’s more to publishing than just the Big Five.
Wolters Kluwer, for example, is a major legal and technical publisher. Reed Elsevier is a diverse publisher in the science, medical, legal, risk, marketing, financial, and business sectors. And ThomsonReuters is a finance and legal publisher.
They don’t face the same market pressures as the Big Five, and the same is true for a lot of the other names on that list.
The media has a tendency to refer to trade publishers like the Big Five as though this is the sum of the book publishing industry (I am including myself in that statement). As you can see from this list, there’s a far larger industry out there.
image by pretendtious