This article was initially published on June 28, 2016. Updated article published on July 15, 2019.

You have heard us talk about the lives of textbooks while you have them and their lives after, whether it be through reselling, donating, or recycling.Now, we’re excited to talk about the origins of books!

By origin, we’re not talking about the warehouses in which the books were printed. We’re talking about the publishers who create and distribute books and information.

In a 2012 study  310 “General Education” active publishers have presence in the United States and 33 of those are devoted to textbooks. You may be surprised by this large number. Of these hundred of companies, five power-houses stand out in the publishing industry. As we shared in our previous version of this post: 

The top five educational publishers are: 

  • Cengage Learning
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • McGraw-Hill Education
  • Pearson Education 
  • Scholastic

You may recognize a few of these names, if not all of them. Possibly from the book fairs you attended as a child? I know I attended several Scholastic fairs in my time. 

The top five publishers only offer a drop in the bucket, if you will, when it comes to book production. While exploring the 310 General Education active publishers would be quite the feat (we would really impress ourselves), we think it’s important to share details in a more manageable way. We are happy to introduce you to twenty great global publishers! 

Twenty Leading Publishers 

          1. Cengage Learning

Cengage Learning publishes hard copy and digital educational materials for secondary, higher, and graduate-level education. Their educational resources include digital works, library markets, training programs, and textbooks. The Gale program provides information and technology to assist in research and education in libraries. Cengage acquired National Geographic Education, which provides educational materials for pre-K through 12th-grade education as well as support for educators. Their 2017 revenue was $1.4 billion.

2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, formerly Houghton Mifflin, purchased Harcourt Publishing in 2007 for $4 billion. Similar to other top publishing companies, HMH provides educational materials in hard copy and digital form for students of all ages. They provide services in niche educational sectors like homeschool materials and  GO Math! Academy to encourage informed young citizens. HMH is also behind the well-known Cliffsnotes. Apart from textbooks, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishes The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Their many publishing and educational endeavors made them $1.4 billion in 2017.

3. McGraw-Hill Education

McGraw-Hill Education was created by a New York school teacher in 1888, and it has grown into one of the largest providers of educational materials. McGraw-Hill expanded their digital education platform to encompass programs like Connect and Aleks. In March 2016 sales of digital units in higher education were larger than print sales for the first time in the company’s history. In 2017, their revenue reached $1.7 billion and their partnerships expanded to over 14,000 authors and educators including more than 50 Nobel laureates. McGraw-Hill also owns Standard and Poor’s, a combination publisher, stock index, and credit rating agency.

4. Pearson Education

Pearson began as a building company in England in 1844 and became one of the largest construction companies in the world by the 1880s. Today, the company is rebranding to focus solely on education. Pearson owns Penguin Books and partners with the College Board to administer the SAT in the United States. The company makes $1.7 billion from educational testing worldwide each year. That’s a large portion of its $6 billion revenue, the highest in the publishing industry.

5. Scholastic

Scholastic Publishers Logo

Scholastic is one of the top publishers.

Scholastic specializes in children’s books and educational materials. Their products include books, television, video, and toys. You may recognize Scholastic from their school-based book fairs across elementary schools in the United States. The company publishes the Harry Potter series in the U.S. They made a whopping $1.7 billion in 2017.

Now that we’ve heard about the five top dogs of publishers, let’s learn more about fifteen additional great publishers around the world.


Based in Germany, Bertelsmann is a multi-faceted company that serves a variety of publication and media needs. All of which contributed to their revenue of 4.2 billion in 2017. They own the broadcasting company RTL Group, publisher Penguin Random House, music company BMG, and magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr. These companies are in addition to those that share the Bertelsmann name: Bertelsmann Printing Group, Bertelsmann Education Group, and Bertelsmann Investments. Through their efforts, they contribute greatly to global entrepreneurship and the humanities. 

7. Emerald Group Publishing 

Emerald Group Publishing focuses on research through their own efforts and a myriad of partnerships. In addition to conducting research and facilitating partnerships, Emerald manages over 300 journals, 2,500 books, and 1,500 teaching cases. Since 1967 their work has aimed at progressing research fields with real-world impact. As such, Emerald is a member of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI). 

8. Macmillan Learning 

Macmillan Learning is focused on higher learning at higher education (high school and college). They offer resources for instructors and students on a variety of courses including, but not limited to, psychology, nutrition, chemistry, economics, and political science. Macmillan’s website offers digital resources for teachers and students alike that assist them in course and subject area mastery. Walking with students towards achievement in college, they also offer the College Quest Blog

9. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group 

Routledge Taylor & Francis Group publishes resources for authors, instructors, librarians, and associations. While they are the leading publisher for Humanities and Social Sciences, RT&F Group also provides information for a wide range of topics like Nursing, Building and Construction, and Linguistics. Following the trend of many other publication resources, Routledge Taylor & Francis Group also offers eBooks, journals, and online resources. 

eBook photo

eBook publishing has become more common in recent years.

10. Wiley

John Wiley & Sons, Inc., recently rebranded as Wiley, is a global publishing company that specializes in academic publishing and instructional materials. For over 200 years Wiley has supported education, skill development, and research. Wiley actively builds the bridge between college education and career application. They develop resources for a wide range of students and professionals including bookstores, government, societies, and of course, students and instructors. 

11. Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer is about cultivating innovation and co-creation through its resources. They are aware of the needs of their clients. Due to their high profile and demanding roles like working in health care and legal professions, their clients need accurate information at all times.  That’s why Wolters Kluwer expands its publishing resources to include software and other services to best support the professionals who support society.

12. Penguin Random House

You may recognize the orange label of Penguin Random House from books in your own home library. Penguin Random House provides one of the world’s largest selections of fiction and non-fiction. They offer more than 15,000 printed books and over 70,000 digital books every year! Penguin has two major stakeholders that are mentioned above: Pearson and Bertelsmann. However, they have their own Headquarters in New York City and locations in five continents, which aids in their global reach. 

13. Hachette Livre

Based in France, Hachette Livre is dedicated to diversity, independence, and responsibility. They aim to best serve the community and their authors and illustrators by providing works in the form of novels, textbooks, partworks, cookbooks, and travel guides in print and digital platforms.  They also cover genres in three main languages: French, English, and Spanish. Hachette Livre is also forward in their commitment to the environment. They openly share that they are committed to reducing their carbon footprint and responsibly use natural resources. You can read more about their social and environmental responsibility efforts HERE

14. Springer Nature

Springer Nature is another multi-faced global publishing company based in the United States. Formed in 2015 by several well-known companies like Nature Publishing Group and Macmillan Education, they have a rich history of trustworthy research. Their reach expands through many scientific publications including Scientific Reports. They publish about 300,000 articles in 3,000 journals and 13,000 books every year. 

15. HarperCollins Publishers 

HarperCollins Publishers was founded in 1817 and today is the second-largest consumer book publisher in the world. While they are based in New York City, they expand across 17 nations. HarperCollins houses the works of infamous authors like Mark Twain, Dickens, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Bronte sisters. Book lovers, educators, and authors find accessible resources through HarperCollins. Their website offers a wide selection of books categorized by awards, subjects, and references. 

16. Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press Logo

Oxford University Press is one of the top global publishers.

Oxford University Press is one of the oldest global publishers. The history of printing in Oxford dates all the way back to 1478. What we know of Oxford University Press began to really form in 1668. This publisher is strongly tied to the University of Oxford, and as such furthers the mission of the university. Their goal is to provide and distribute high-quality education resources. To maximize their reach, Oxford University Press publishes in more than 40 languages and offers print and digital resources for people of all ages and all forms of education including resources for general readers to institutions. You may be familiar with their dictionary.


17. Simon & Schuster 

Simon & Schuster has been publishing books for nearly 100 years (founded in 1924). Throughout the years, Simon & Schuster have distributed their publications in over 200 countries and in many formats from paperback to audiobooks. In 2006 they became a subsidiary of CBS Corporation. Published books from Simon & Schuster are well awarded. Their publications have received 56 Pulitzer Prizes, 18 National Book Awards, 11 National Book Critics Circle Awards, 15 Caldecott Medals, and 19 Newbery Medals and 8 Grammy Awards. 

18. RELX Group

The RELX Group is one of the largest grossing publication companies in the world. In 2017 their revenue equaled 5.6 billion. Their publications are more unique in that they offer data-informed professional resources. As a forward-thinking and innovative organization, the RELX Group’s target audience included medical, technical, scientific and business professionals. 

19. Informa

Since it’s beginning in 1998, Informa’s goal is to support specialists. Through five operating divisions, Informa offers resources, consultation, and tools that help specialists best serve their clients and move their industries forward. Their expertise has a wide range from agribusiness to beauty and aesthetics. Over the years Informa has acquired Loyd’s List, Philosophical Magazine, and Taylor & Francis journal–all with a strong history of providing support to specialists.

20. Kodansha

Kodansha Comics Logo

Kodansha is one of the top global publishers.

Kodansha Ltd is the leading publisher in Japan and was founded in 1909. Kodansha Comics is the publisher of the highly popular Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan, and Fairy Tail. They branched to New York City to develop the English-language branch in 2008. Then in 2015, a new branch opened in San Francisco, California to manage the digital media. Kodansha publishes digital and print work in a range of genres: fashion, manga, art, lifestyle, fiction, nonfiction, business, journalism, and more. 

These twenty publishing companies generate billions of dollars annually. They have grown over the years to become massive media conglomerates, owning magazines, newspapers, and digital publications. Their willingness to partner and buy out other publishing companies makes them too large to ignore as business entities. While those listed here vary in focus to some degree, they all are making an impact on the book and information industries. 

How are publishers impacted by changes in the industry? 

While publishers make an impact on the industry, the industry is also shifting. Publishers are finding creative ways to hold strong in the book and information industry. As seen above, most publishers have expanded their platforms to include digital publications and tech-based tools to maintain or increase engagement across all users. For professionals and educators, new apps and databases are being developed by publishing companies. Many textbook-based publishers are increasing their selection of digital publications of books for students. 

open book image

While physical books are still used by the public, publishers are increasingly choosing alternative publishing opportunities.

The demand for lowering costs of education is increasing the switch from print to digital

The creative solutions like rental and resale companies (like BookScouter) are also inspiring publishers to be creative on ways to remain in the market, and they need to be. These massive publication companies are the place of work for thousands and thousands of people and offer writers, educators, scientists, professionals compensation for their work. Publishers also have the immense responsibility of keeping mass information accessible to the public. 

As we see above, all publishers are producing digital works and some are going farther by creating new tools in technology and shifting towards information centers. All in all, publishers are adjusting and are creating cutting edge work for professionals, educators, and the general public. 

Will sitting down with a good book ever end? We doubt it. Who can resist a great book?