Profiling the UK’s big hitters in publishing

If you cast an eye over your bookshelves, the chances are that most of your titles are represented by the major publishing houses.
This article will list some of the largest mainstream (or trade) publishers in Britain. The list will cast an eye over each publisher’s individual character, history, and achievements.

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 Penguin Random House

Since it was founded in 1935, Penguin Group has been synonymous with publishing. The firm’s £2.4 billion merger, in 2013, with another major industry force, Random House, created the world’s biggest publisher.
By joining forces as Penguin Random House, the companies knew they’d have the power required to invest in and fully realise the potential of digital publishing.
PRH works with many household-name authors – Lee Child, Ian McEwan and Jojo Moyes, to name but a few – and has roughly a 25% share of the UK’s book market.

Hachette Livre

Hachette Livre was established in France, nearly two hundred years ago, but has long been a big name in English fiction and non-fiction. Books by such famous, diverse writers as Douglas Adams, Kate Adie and Ian Rankin are printed by the firm.
Hachette embraces social media wholeheartedly, and has teamed up with Twitter for #WhereIWrite, a series of video broadcasts offering insights from its authors.


HarperCollins takes pride in the variety of its output. It publishes works by established and up-and-coming authors, plus educational titles.
The publisher began life as William Collins & Sons, in 1819, and has worked with legendary authors such as Agatha Christie. It has an illustrious history in traditional publishing but also moves with the times.
Five years ago, HarperCollins broke the record for the most digital downloads in one day, when it sold over one hundred thousand eBooks on Christmas Day.

Faber Independent Alliance

The award-winning Faber Independent Alliance is a pioneering force in publishing. In the spirit of strength in numbers, several independent publishers (including Faber and Faber, Canongate, Granta Books and others) have joined forces to create an influential community that can compete with standalone big-hitters.

Pan Macmillan

Originally known as Macmillan, the publisher was founded in 1843. It published literature by the period’s major authors, such as Lewis Carroll, and later established itself as an academic publisher too.
Pan Macmillan’s interest in children’s literature reflects its beginnings as a family-run firm. The Macmillan Prize is awarded to young, exceptionally talented children’s book illustrators, supporting the next generation of creative minds.


Helping readers to broaden their horizons, as well as providing teaching aids, is central to Pearson’s work. Its textbooks and other resources cover subjects ranging from hands-on science projects to holistic therapies.
Pearson is a firm believer in enhancing the educational experience with technology. For example, it offers digital tools that measure people’s abilities.

Oxford University Press

As the world’s largest university press, the OUP offers printed and electronic texts in dozens of languages. It builds on Oxford University’s centuries-long association with the print trade.
The OUP publishes textbooks, journals, dictionaries, etc. – but its output isn’t limited to academic works. For instance, it also publishes children’s books such as Astrid Lindgren’s well-loved Pippi Longstocking stories.


Founded thirty years ago, Bloomsbury is a relatively young yet astonishingly successful publisher. When it began printing JK Rowling’s phenomenally popular Harry Potter novels in 1997, Bloomsbury became a publishing powerhouse.
It also publishes titles for adults by leading lights such as Donna Tartt.

Simon & Schuster

Founded in 1924, Simon & Schuster excels at publishing well-written books with broad appeal. Philippa Gregory and Lynda La Plante are among its bestselling writers.
The publisher embraces technology as a means of bringing readers closer to authors; hence it’s active on social media, as well as producing podcasts and videos.


Wiley has been part of the publishing industry for over two hundred years. The organisation specialises in academic works, published in print and electronically, aimed at students, teachers, professionals and others.
Thanks to the enormous Wiley Online Library, covering science and the humanities, the firm is a major force in digital publishing.

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