I have always been curious about the publishing industry. Through my work, only sometimes I got to travel in that direction. Twice, to be precise. In one case, the journey went as far as understanding the yellow pages industry and some specialist low circulation magazines. And more recently, trying to find independent consumer magazine titles as part of industry landscaping for potential PE/ M&A transactions in Australia led me to the realisation that most of the magazine publishing world is highly concentrated (Bauer group and Conde Nast pretty much own the fashion and consumer stuff. Not the business press*)
Then, as and when I read Virginia Woolf’s diaries, and about her Hogarth Press and all her Bloomsbury set, or on reading Bolano’s 2666 and its reference to a German publishing house, there was a note often scribbled to self to understand the industry a bit better.
Part of the reason for this interest stays the vague, romantic desire of someday in the distant future, owning a bookstore. (I know, I know it is not a business idea. Rather, humouring an indulgence). So getting to know the industry is understanding your supplier base (even though, once or twice removed). And the other part is just the curiosity that any PE person has about how any sector/ industry works. The first few questions you try to address.
So when recently I came across this infographic (being the key point of this post), I decided to follow it up until it entertains me. The picture sums up the ownership of book publishing companies – their brief history. The five majors as they are known. Used to control half the book publishing market, but now it is a rapidly declining share.
Source – Infographic Guide to Literature (Hachette UK).
One of the first thing that flashes on reading this chart is the concentration in the industry. Just a glance through my bookshelf tells me that several of the titles are from these publishing groups/ their imprints. May not be enough for a sample.
The industry is constantly on the move, consolidation increasing. Following is a snapshot of top 20 from the list (And this being a general list, not specific to book publishing).
*Business Press. Here are the majors by circulation (2005)
- Wall Street Journal
- Business Week
- The Economist
- Financial Times
- Harvard Business Review