Wonder what the world’s largest book publishers are? Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly published their top global publishers annual ranking, based on figures for the fiscal year 2017.

The listing reveals a lot of interesting details; the most notable detail is the significant drop in sales of the top 5 publishers. At the top of the list is London-based Pearson, which had a 15% decline in sales from $6.63 billion in the fiscal year 2015 to $5.62 billion. Pearson and the other publishers in the top 5 each posted more than $3 billion in revenue and are the only companies to do so in the fiscal year 2017.

It was not indeed a good year for global publishers. Less than half of the top 50 publishers in Livres Hebdo/Publishers Weekly’s listing posted revenue gains while the rest reported sales declines. The declining sales had led some companies to lay off thousands of employees.

The top 5 largest book publishers in the world are:

  1. Pearson

2016 Ranking: 1
2017 Ranking: 1

Pearson is not only the largest book publisher in the world but is also the largest education company. Before the company turned to publishing in 1921, it was one of the largest construction companies in the world.

Pearson gradually established a firm foothold in the publishing company by acquiring a number of print and broadcast media companies, among them are the Financial Times and The Economist in 1957, publishing company Longman in 1968, Penguin Books and Ladybird Books in 1972, educational publisher Prentice Hall in 1998, and travel publisher Rough Guides in 2002. Pearson turned its focus towards educational publishing in 2016.

  1. RELX Group

2016 Ranking: 3
2017 Ranking: 2

According to its website, RELX Group is “a global provider of information and analytics for professional and business customers across industries.” It has headquarters in London and Amsterdam.

The multinational company operates in four market segments:

  • Scientific, technical, and medical under the Elsevier With 16% market share, Elsevier is the world’s largest publisher of academic articles.
  • Risk and business analytics under LexisNexis Risk Solutions and Reed Business Information (RBI) brands
  • Legal under LexisNexis
  • Exhibitions under Reed Exhibitions, the second largest exhibitions company in the world.


  1. Thomson Reuters

2016 Ranking: 2
2017 Ranking: 3

The Canada-based multinational mass media and information firm Thomson Reuters was established in 2008 when information company Thomson Corporation acquired the London-based media company Reuters Group in 2008.

Thomson Reuters owns the multinational news agency Reuters. The company provides information for businesses and professionals in the financial, tax and accounting, legal, healthcare and science, and media market and organizes its publishing business into three divisions: financial and risk, tax and accounting, and legal.

  1. Bertelsmann

2016 Ranking: Not listed
2017 Ranking: 4

The German multinational corporation Bertelsmann is one of the largest mass media companies in the world. It ventures not only in book publishing but also in TV and radio broadcasting, magazine publishing, printing, music, education, and business services.

Bertelsmann owns 75% of Penguin Random House, the leading trade book publisher in the world. Pearson owns the remaining 25%. The merger of Pearson’s Penguin and Bertelsmann’s Random House was a response to Amazon’s increasing dominance in the book market.

Penguin Random House’s divisions also happen to be huge publishing houses, even having their own imprints, among them are Ballantine Books, Bantam Books, DK, Doubleday, and Riverhead Books. Titles under Penguin Random House have been listed in the The New York Times and The Sunday Times bestseller lists including Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Jojo Moye’s Me Before You, and John Grisham’s The Whistler, and Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series.

  1. Wolters Kluwer N.V.

2016 Ranking: 4
2017 Ranking: 5

A global information services company based in the Netherlands, Wolters Kluwer specializes in business, tax, legal, educational, science, medicine, professional training, and electronic publishing. It maintains a limited presence in general consumer and trade publishing. The company operates under four divisions: legal and regulatory, financial & compliance services, tax and accounting, and health.

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