You already know what happens to textbooks after we use them, as we’ve already written about reselling, donating, or recycling. However, today, we are excited to shift the conversation to the origins of books!
By “origins,” we are not referring to the warehouses where the books are printed. Instead, we are talking about the publishers who produce and distribute books and information.
According to the 2012 study A Research Study on Textbook Recycling in America, “There are currently 33 textbook publishers in the U.S., and 310 “General Education” publishers. Combined, they produce over 4.3 billion books annually, and are also responsible for disposing of obsolete book inventories over which they have control.” You may be surprised by this large number. Among hundreds of companies, five stand out in the publishing industry as powerhouses. These top five educational publishers are:
- Cengage Learning
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- McGraw-Hill Education
- Pearson Education
You might recall some of the names mentioned here if not all of them. Perhaps you remember seeing them at the book fairs you attended as a child (e.g., Scholastic has been hosting great fairs until this day).
Yet, while the top five publishers are well-known, they only represent a small fraction of the total number of textbook publishers out there. As we’ve already mentioned, there are at least 310 active publishers specializing in General Education. Yet, exploring them all would be quite a challenge. Therefore, we believe it’s best to present this information in a more manageable way and are delighted to introduce you to twenty great publishers from all around the world!
20 Leading Textbook Publishers
1. Cengage Learning
Cengage Learning is a global education technology company that has been providing educational materials to learners for more than a hundred years. The company is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and publishes educational materials for secondary, higher, and graduate-level education in both hard copy and digital formats. Cengage’s mission is to help higher education instructors, learners, and institutions thrive by developing course materials that meet their specific needs. The Gale program is another initiative by Cengage that provides information and technology to help in research and education in libraries. One of the biggest textbook publishers, Cengage has acquired National Geographic Education, which offers educational materials for pre-K through 12th-grade education, as well as support for educators. Cengage’s educational resources include digital works, library markets, training programs, and textbooks. The company’s offerings include eBooks, online learning platforms, and the innovative subscription service Cengage Unlimited. Cengage Unlimited provides students with access to the entire library of eBooks and online learning platforms, free textbook rentals, and skill-building activities.
2. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is an American publishing company that provides educational materials in hard copy and digital form for students of all ages. Similar to other college textbook publishers, HMH specializes in textbooks, instructional technology materials, assessments, and reference works. They also 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. The company is headquartered in the Boston Financial District and was previously known as Houghton Mifflin Company. In 2007, following its acquisition of Harcourt Publishing, the company changed its name to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
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. It’s considered one of the “big three” educational publishers, providing educational content, software, and services for students from pre-K to postgraduate education. McGraw-Hill Education offers a wide range of products, including adaptive learning technology, educational software, e-books, apps, platform services, curriculum, and books. The company is committed to helping each learner reach their full potential and fosters a culture of respect and inclusion that reflects the diversity of people. One of their latest launches (2022), the Sharpen mobile app, aims to deliver learning via a “continuous content feed, bite-sized videos, swipeable study tools, and a personalized activity dashboard.”
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 focuses solely on education. Now, it’s a British multinational publishing and education company headquartered in London. It’s one of the leading textbook companies and education providers offering a broad range of products and services. The company specializes in assessments for PreK-12 schools (from academic support programs to educational assessments to language support). Pearson VUE, a division of Pearson, provides high-stakes exams for professional certifications and licenses.
Scholastic Corporation is the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world. They provide print and digital educational materials for pre-K to grade 12. It’s renowned for quality books, eBooks, classroom magazines, learning programs, and other products that support education and literacy. The company offers professional learning and consultancy services for school improvement as well. You may recognize Scholastic from their school-based book fairs across elementary schools in the U.S. Scholastic The company also runs the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. This competition acknowledges talented young artists and writers from across the United States. Scholastic also publishes the Harry Potter series in the U.S.
Now that we’ve heard about the five top textbook publishers, let’s learn more about fifteen additional great publishers around the world.
Based in Germany, Bertelsmann is a multi-faceted company that serves publication and media needs. It has a diverse portfolio of businesses that includes publishing, education, and media. 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. They contribute greatly to global entrepreneurship and the humanities through their efforts and have established close relationships with various organizations and countries.
7. Emerald Group Publishing
Emerald Group Publishing, or Emerald Publishing, is a scholarly publisher of academic journals and books headquartered in Leeds, England. The company was founded in the United Kingdom in 1967 as Management Consultants Bradford (MCB) UP Ltd and changed its name to Emerald in 2002. Originally focused on social sciences and management, Emerald has expanded its publishing areas to include health, science, engineering, and technology. This textbook publisher now focuses on research through its efforts and many partnerships.
8. Macmillan Learning
Macmillan Learning is one of the top educational publishing companies that provides a broad range of academic resources such as textbooks, eBooks, and digital course materials for students and educators. They aim to help instructors and students with a variety of courses, including, but not limited to, psychology, nutrition, chemistry, economics, and political science. Macmillan Learning also offers affordable digital and rental options through its student store. This allows students to access high-quality educational resources without breaking the bank. These options are particularly useful for students who are looking to save money while still accessing the best possible learning resources.
9. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
Routledge, a part of the Taylor & Francis Group, is a leading academic publisher in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM fields. RT&F Group also publishes information on topics like Nursing, Building and Construction, and Linguistics. One of the top educational publishers, it provides resources for authors, instructors, librarians, and associations. Together with CRC Press, it prints thousands of books, eBook collections, and journal articles each year, helping scholars, instructors, and professional communities worldwide get access to the most recent scientific information out there. Check Routledge reviews on BookScouter.
Wiley is a global publishing company that specializes in academic publishing and instructional materials (books, journals, and digital products). For over 200 years, Wiley has been publishing textbooks and supporting education, professional development, and research. They develop resources on various subjects, including STEM, business, finance, and humanities, for students, instructors, and professionals. Wiley’s mission is to bridge the gap between college education and career application, helping people achieve their goals in an ever-changing world.
11. Wolters Kluwer
Wolters Kluwer is a global information services company that provides professional information, software solutions, and services to legal, business, tax, accounting, finance, audit, risk, compliance, and healthcare markets. They are committed to combining deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services to help professionals improve their work efficiency, make informed decisions, and achieve better outcomes. That’s why Wolters Kluwer expands its publishing resources to include software and other services. With a focus on innovation and customer-centric solutions, Wolters Kluwer continues to be a leader in providing essential information and insights to various professional fields.
12. Penguin Random House
You may recognize the orange label of Penguin Random House from books in your home library. Publishing textbooks isn’t their main specialization, as 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! This top publishing company was formed on July 1, 2013, with the merger of Penguin Group and Random House. It has more than 300 publishing imprints and is considered one of the ‘Big Five’ English language publishers. They have their own Headquarters in New York City and locations on five continents. At the moment, the company is a part of Bertelsmann.
13. Hachette Livre
Hachette Livre is a leading global publishing company and one of the Big Five publishers. It has over 200 editorial brands specializing in publishing and education, offering a wide range of content in multiple languages and formats. The company was founded by Louis Hachette in Paris in 1826. Dedicated to diversity, independence, and responsibility, it aims to best serve the community, authors, and illustrators by providing works in the form of novels, textbooks, partworks, cookbooks, and travel guides in print and digital platforms. Hachette publishes books in three main languages: French, English, and Spanish. The company is also committed to reducing its carbon footprint and responsibly using natural resources. You can read more about their social and environmental responsibility efforts.
14. Springer Nature
Springer Nature is another multi-faced global academic publishing company based in the United States. It was formed in 2015 as a result of the merger of three well-known companies: Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education. Springer Nature aims to advance scientific discovery by publishing trusted research, supporting the development of new ideas, and promoting open science. With a reputation for being a leading research, professional, and educational publisher, Springer Nature provides access to a wide range of content in various formats: it produces about 300,000 articles in 3,000 journals and 13,000 books every year.
15. HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins Publishers is yet another top publishing company and one of the Big Five English-language publishers. Founded in 1817 and based in New York City, they have a presence in 17 countries. HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books in 16 languages annually and has a print and digital catalog of more than 200,000 titles. The company’s portfolio spans dozens of genres and includes works of various book award winners. Book lovers, educators, and authors can find accessible resources through HarperCollins.
16. Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press is one of the top global educational 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 its 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 and institutions. You may be familiar with their dictionary—the Oxford English Dictionary—”An unsurpassed guide for researchers in any discipline to the meaning, history, and usage of over 500,000 words and phrases across the English-speaking world.”
17. Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster has been publishing books for nearly 100 years. Founded in 1924, it has been distributing publications in over 200 countries and in many formats, from paperback to audiobooks. It’s considered one of the Big Five English language publishers for its college and high school study guides specifically. In 2006, the company became a part of CBS Corporation. With headquarters in New York City, it has offices around the world. Among their publications are many award-winning and critically acclaimed works.
18. RELX Group
The RELX Group, formerly known as Reed Elsevier, is a British multinational information and analytics company. Headquartered in London, it has offices in 40 countries and serves customers in over 180 countries. The company specializes in providing scientific, technical, and medical information and analytics, legal information and analytics, decision-making tools, and organizing exhibitions. Their publications stand out as they offer data-informed professional resources. Being an innovative organization, the RELX Group serves audiences primarily consisting of medical, technical, scientific, and business professionals.
Formed in 1998, Informa has always aimed to support specialists. “Informa’s events, digital products and academic research services connect specialists with knowledge, helping them learn more, know more and do more.” Now, it’s a leading international event, digital services, and academic knowledge group. Through its operating divisions, Informa offers products and services, live and on-demand events, as well as resources (digital content and media) and consultations 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.
The last on our list is not a prominent college textbook publisher. Kodansha is a well-known Japanese publishing company that specializes in manga. In Japan, it’s the largest, particularly in the manga industry. The company was founded in 1910 and is headquartered in Bunkyō, Tokyo. It also expanded its operations to the U.S. in 2008 through its subsidiary, Kodansha USA, which localizes and publishes Kodansha’s manga in English. Kodansha publishes various manga magazines (e.g., Nakayoshi, Afternoon, Evening, Weekly Shōnen Magazine, etc.), literary magazines (e.g., Gunzō and Shūkan Gendai), as well as Nihongo Daijiten, the color-illustrated Japanese dictionary. You can easily access their broad catalog of manga through K Manga, a manga distribution service.
These twenty publishing companies earn billions of dollars annually and have become massive media conglomerates over the years. They own a range of media outlets, including magazines, newspapers, and digital publications. Although they differ somewhat in their specific areas of focus, they all have a significant 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 textbook companies and 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 publishers are increasing their selection of digital book publications for students.
The demand for lowering education costs is causing the switch from print to digital. Creative solutions like rental and resale companies, as well as price comparison platforms like BookScouter, are also inspiring publishers to be creative on ways to remain in the market. And they have to do it. These massive publication companies are the place of work for thousands and thousands of people and offer writers, educators, scientists, and professionals compensation for their work. They are also responsible for keeping mass information accessible to the public.
‘Cause will sitting down with a good book ever end? We doubt it. Who can resist a great book?