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Top 50 publishers mixed results but US audio downloads boom

11 September 2017

Mixed fortunes for world's 50 largest publishers are shown in a recent report but more recent figures for US audio downloads show that they have been booming.

Figures showing the performance of the world's 50 largest publishers in a challenging market demonstrate that more publishers saw sales decline than increase in 2016.This global snapshot of the corporate view of publishing is of more than passing interest to writers, as it shows the international picture on traditional publishing.

Although total revenue of the world's 50 largest book publishers topped $50 billion in 2016, less than half of them posted revenue gains in the year, with the balance reporting sales declines. Pearson had a tough year, with a 15% decline in sales, to $5.62 billion, but that relates to the crisis in educational publishing. Even with the drop in revenue, Pearson continued its longtime reign as the world's largest book publisher, according to the Livres Hebdo/Publishers WeeklyInternational news website of book publishing and bookselling including business news, reviews, bestseller lists, commentaries annual ranking.

Internationally, two Brazilian publishers returned to the ranking in 2016 after dropping off in 2015 due to the plunge in value of Brazil's currency and the 2016 ranking excludes Chinese publishers, because of the difficulty of measuring their sales volume.

The World's 50 Largest Publishers, 2017

There's been an extraordinary surge in audiobook revenues in the US of 29% in the first four months of this year, as the audiobook market continues to expand rapidly through the growth in downloads. Print has remained flat but there was strong growth in hardback books (up 8% from $625m to $679m) and a drop of 6% in paperback and mass market, from $810m to $755m.

Within those figures overall revenues for American book publishers increased to $3bn for the first four months of this year, up 4% on the same period in 2016, so in the world's largest book market things are going quite well. It should also be borne in mind that the way these figures have been compiled means that self-publishing book sales have not been captured.