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The Aboriginal Studies Press (ASP) bookshop at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software, and other content available to the public for sale or for free.[1] Traditionally, the term refers to the creation and distribution of printed works, such as books, comic books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information systems, the scope has expanded to include digital publishing such as ebooks, digital magazines, websites, social media, music, and video game publishing.

The commercial publishing industry ranges from large multinational conglomerates such as News Corp, Pearson, Penguin Random House, and Thomson Reuters[2] to major retail brands and thousands of small independent publishers. It has various divisions such as trade/retail publishing of fiction and non-fiction, educational publishing, and academic and scientific publishing.[3] Publishing is also undertaken by governments, civil society, and private companies for administrative or compliance requirements, business, research, advocacy, or public interest objectives.[4] This can include annual reports, research reports, market research, policy briefings, and technical reports. Self-publishing has become very common.

Publishing has evolved from a small, ancient form limited by law or religion to a modern, large-scale industry disseminating all types of information.[5]

"Publisher" can refer to a publishing company, organization, or an individual who leads a publishing company, imprint, periodical, or newspaper.

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Stages of publishing

The publishing process covering most magazine, journal, and book publishers includes: (Different stages are applicable to different types of publishers)[6]

Types of publishers

Newspaper publishing

Newspapers or news websites are publications of current reports, articles, and features written by journalists. They are free, sometimes with a premium edition, or paid for, either individually or through a subscription. They are filled with photographs or other media and usually are subsidized with advertising. Typically, they cover local, national, and international news or feature a particular industry. Some organizations charge premium fees if they have the expertise and exclusive knowledge. The news industry is meant to serve the public interest, hold people and businesses to account, and promote freedom of information and expression.[7] Editors manage the tone of voice of their publication; for example, negative versus positive articles can affect the reader's perspective.[8]

Journal publishing

A journal is an academic or technical publication also available in digital and(or) print format, containing articles written by researchers, professors, and individuals with professional expertise. These publications are specific to a particular field and often push the boundaries established in these fields. They usually have peer review processes before publishing to test the validity and quality of the content.[9]

Magazine publishing

A magazine is a periodical published at regular intervals. It features creative layouts, photography, and illustrations that cover a particular subject or interest. Magazines are available in print or digital formats and can be purchased on apps or websites like Readly or accessed for free on apps or websites like Issuu.

Book publishing

The global book publishing industry consists of books categorized as fiction or non-fiction and print, ebook, or audiobook. The book market is huge, with around 1.5 billion people speaking English.[10] Translation services are also available to make these texts accessible in other languages. Self-publishing makes publishing widely accessible through small print-run digital printing or online self-publishing platforms. E-reader screen technology continues to improve with increased contrast and resolution making them more comfortable to read. Each book has a registered ISBN to identify it.

Directory publishing

Directories contain searchable indexed data about businesses, products, and services. They were printed in the past but are now mostly online. Directories are available as searchable lists, on a map, as a sector-specific portal, as a review site (expert or consumer), or as a comparison site. Although some businesses may not consider themselves publishers, the way the data is displayed is published.

Textbook publishing

A textbook is an educational book, or ebook, that contains information on a particular subject and is used by people studying that subject.[11] The need for textbook publishing continues due to the global need for education.[12][13] Textbooks from major publishers are being integrated with online learning platforms for expert knowledge and access to a library of books with digital content.[14] A university press is an academic publisher run by a university. Oxford University Press is the largest in the world and specializes in research, education, and English language teaching internationally.[15]

Catalog publishing

A catalog is a visual directory or list of a large range of products that allow you to browse and buy from a particular company.[16] In print, this is usually in the format of a softback book or directory. Smaller visual catalogs can be known as brochures. With the Internet, they have evolved into searchable databases of products known under the term e-commerce. Interactive catalogs and brochures like IKEA[17] and Avon[18] allow customers to browse a full range if they have not decided on their purchase. Responsive web and app design will allow further integration between interactive catalog visuals and searchable product databases.

Web publishing

Until recently, physical books were the primary source of recording knowledge. For accessibility and global reach, this content can be repurposed for the web. The British Library, for example, holds more than 170 million items with 3 million new additions each year.[19] With consent, content can be published online through ebooks, audiobooks, CMS-based websites, online learning platforms, videos, or mobile apps. On the Internet, writers and copy editors are known as content writers and content editors, although their roles vary from their print-based counterparts.


Advertising can provide income or a subsidized income for publishers. If the advertising has a return on investment (ROI), the publisher can boost income exponentially by increasing the spending. An ROI of up to £10 per £1 invested is possible, as seen in the John Lewis & Partners Christmas campaigns.[20][21] Likewise, any cost savings that harm the customer/consumer experience can impact a brand in the long term. Multichannel marketing can be more cost-effective in creating an immersive experience that cannot be replicated with one channel. For example, when considering marketing spend, a shop with a small margin (or none at all) compared to a website is very cost-effective because it acts as a huge billboard that offers a browsing experience that enables consumers to make purchasing decisions. It gives them a feel for the brand, has a presence in the community, and creates jobs. Also, using social media publishing to advertise has a good ROI if trending, high-quality content is created that reflects positively on the brand.

Tie-in publishing

Film, television, radio, and advertisements publish information to their audiences. Computer games, streaming apps, and social media publish content in various ways that can keep audiences more engaged. Marketing additional products closely related to a major film, such as Star Wars, is an example of tie-in publishing. These products include but are not limited to spin-off books, graphic novels, soundtrack albums, computer games, models and toys, social media posts, and promotional publications. Examples of tie-in publishing based on books are the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises.

Book publishing sub-divisions

There are four major types of publishers in book publishing:

  • Commercial publishers are more rigid and selective as to which books they publish. Authors pay no cost to publish in exchange for selling rights to their work if accepted. They receive in-house editing, design, printing, marketing, and distribution services and are paid royalties on sales.[22]
  • Self-publishers are publishing organizations that authors can use to publish their books and retain full rights to their works. Self-publishing houses are more open than traditional ones, allowing emerging and established authors to publish their work. Several modern or self-publishing houses offer enhanced services (e.g., editing, design), and authors may choose one or many. Authors shoulder pre-publishing expenses and retain the rights to their works, keep total control, and are paid royalties on sales.[23]
  • Vanity presses portray themselves as traditional publishers but are, in fact, just a self-publishing service. Unlike genuine self-publishing services, with vanity presses, the author is often obliged to use some or all of their additional services, and the press will usually take rights to the work as part of their contract.[24]
  • Hybrid publishers operate under the same practices as traditional publishing but use a different revenue model. There have been attempts to bridge this gap using hybrid models. No one model has been fully proven at this stage.[25]

In 2013, Penguin (owned by Pearson) and Random House (owned by Bertelsmann) merged, narrowing the industry to a handful of big publishers as it adapted to digital media.[26] The merger created the largest consumer book publisher globally, with a global market share of more than 25 percent.[27] Approximately 60 percent[28] of English-language books are produced through the "Big Five" publishing houses: Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. In November 2020, ViacomCBS agreed to sell Simon & Schuster, the third largest book publisher in the United States, to Penguin Random House in a deal that, if it had gone through, would have formed the largest publishing company in the world.[26] On November 2, 2021, the United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit (U.S. v. Bertelsmann SE & CO. KGaA, et al.) to block the merger on antitrust grounds,[29] and on October 31, 2022, the D.C. District Court ruled in favor of the Department of Justice, filing a permanent injunction on the merger.[30]

Although newspaper and magazine companies still often own printing presses and binderies, book publishers rarely do.[citation needed] Similarly, the trade usually sells the finished products through a distributor who stores and distributes the publisher's wares for a percentage fee or sells on a sale or return basis.

The advent of the Internet has provided a mode of book distribution that eliminates the need for physical printing, delivery, or storage. Preparing a book for ebook publication is the same as print publication, with only minor variations in the process to account for the different publishing mediums; Ebook publication also eliminates some costs like the discount given to retailers (usually around 45 percent).[31]

Some major publishers have entire divisions devoted to a single franchise, e.g., Ballantine Del Rey LucasBooks has the exclusive rights to Star Wars in the United States; Random House UK (Bertelsmann)/Century LucasBooks holds the same rights in the United Kingdom. The video game industry self-publishes through BL Publishing/Black Library (Warhammer) and Wizards of the Coast (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, etc.). The BBC has its own publishing division that does very well with long-running series such as Doctor Who. These multimedia works are cross-marketed aggressively, and sales frequently outperform the average stand-alone published work, making them a focus of corporate interest.[32]

Recent developments

Accessible publishing uses the digitization of books to mark them up into XML and produce multiple formats to sell to customers, often targeting those who experience difficulty reading. Formats include a variety of larger print sizes, specialized print formats for dyslexia,[33] eye tracking problems, and macular degeneration, as well as Braille, DAISY, audiobooks, and ebooks.[34]

Green publishing means adapting the publishing process to minimize environmental impact. One example is the concept of on-demand printing, using digital or print-on-demand technology. This cuts down the need to ship books since they are manufactured close to the customer on a just-in-time basis.[35]

A further development is the growth of online publishing, where no physical books are produced. The author creates an ebook and uploads it to a website, from which anyone can download and read it.

An increasing number of authors are using niche marketing online to sell more books by engaging with their readers online.[36]


Refer to the ISO divisions of ICS 01.140.40 and 35.240.30 for further information.[37][38]

Legal issues

Publication is the distribution of copies or content to the public.[39][40] The Berne Convention requires that this can only be done with the consent of the copyright holder, which initially is always the author.[39] In the Universal Copyright Convention, "publication" is defined in Article VI as "the reproduction in tangible form and the general distribution to the public of copies of a work from which it can be read or otherwise visually perceived."[40]


Privishing (private publishing, but not to be confused with self-publishing) is a modern term for publishing a book but printing so few copies or with such lack of marketing, advertising, or sales support that it effectively does not reach the public.[41] The book, while nominally published, is almost impossible to obtain through normal channels such as bookshops, often cannot be ordered specially, and has a notable lack of support from its publisher, including refusal to reprint the title. A book that is privished may be referred to as "killed." Depending on the motivation, privishing may constitute a breach of contract, censorship,[42] or good business practice (e.g., not printing more books than the publisher believes will sell in a reasonable length of time).


Printer working an early Gutenberg letterpress from the 15th century (1877 engraving)

Publishing became possible with the invention of writing and became more practical upon the introduction of printing. Before printing, distributed works were copied manually by scribes. Due to printing, publishing progressed hand-in-hand with the development of books.

The Chinese inventor Bi Sheng made a movable type of earthenware c. 1045, but there are no known surviving examples of his work. The Korean civil servant Ch'oe Yun-ŭi, who lived during the Goryeo Dynasty, invented the first metal moveable type in 1234–1250 AD.[43]

In what is commonly regarded as an independent invention, Johannes Gutenberg developed movable type in Europe around 1450, along with innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mould.The invention of the printing press gradually made books less expensive to produce and more widely available.

Early printed books, single sheets, and images created before 1501 in Europe are known as incunables or incunabula. "A man born in 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, could look back from his fiftieth year on a lifetime in which about eight million books had been printed, more perhaps than all the scribes of Europe had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D. 330."[44]

The history of modern newspaper publishing started in Germany in 1609, with the publication of magazines following in 1663.

Missionaries brought printing presses to sub-Saharan Africa in the mid-18th century.[45]

Historically, publishing has been handled by publishers, although some authors self-published.[46] The establishment of the World Wide Web in 1989 soon propelled the website into a dominant publishing medium. Wikis and blogs soon developed, followed by online books, online newspapers, and online magazines. This also facilitated the technological convergence of commercial and self-published content and the convergence of publishing and production into online production through the development of multimedia content.

A U.S.-based study in 2016 that surveyed 34 publishers found that straight, able-bodied, white females overwhelmingly represent the publishing industry in the US.[47] Salon described the situation as a "lack of diversity behind the scenes in book world."[48] A survey in 2020 by the same group found there has been no significant statistical change in the lack of diversity since the 2016 survey.[49] Lack of diversity in the American publishing industry has been an issue for years. Within the industry, the least amount of diversity was in higher-level editorial positions.[50]

See also


  1. ^ "Publishing | meaning". Cambridge English Dictionary. Archived from the original on 5 July 2019. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  2. ^ "GLOBAL 50. The world ranking of the publishing industry 2019". Issuu. 28 October 2019. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  3. ^ International Publishers Association (2018). "The Global Publishing Industry in 2016". WIPO. doi:10.34667/tind.29034. Archived from the original on 15 June 2020. Retrieved 7 February 2020.
  4. ^ Börjesson, Lisa (2016). "Research outside academia? – An analysis of resources in extra-academic report writing". Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology. 53 (1): 1–10. doi:10.1002/pra2.2016.14505301036. S2CID 7212603.
  5. ^ "Publishing industry history and challenges | Britannica". Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  6. ^ New Oxford Style Manual. Oxford University Press. 2016.
  7. ^ "Freedom of expression, media freedom and safety of journalists". Archived from the original on 19 January 2023. Retrieved 22 June 2023. (last checked 2023-01-19)
  8. ^ Heuristics and Biases Kahneman, D.; Tversky, A. (1982). Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511809477. ISBN 9780511809477. Archived from the original on 30 December 2023. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  9. ^ "Journals". The Royal Society. Archived from the original on 13 January 2023. Retrieved 13 January 2023.
  10. ^ "The Most Spoken Languages Worldwide". Archived from the original on 23 January 2023. Retrieved 23 January 2023.
  11. ^ "textbook". Colins Dictionary. Archived from the original on 12 January 2023. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  12. ^ "The Global Publishing Industry in 2021" (PDF). WIPO. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 January 2023. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Finance". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 28 January 2023. Retrieved 28 January 2023. $5 trillion spent on education worldwide
  14. ^ "Pearson+". Archived from the original on 10 January 2023. Retrieved 22 June 2023.
  15. ^ "About Oxford University Press". Archived from the original on 29 January 2023. Retrieved 29 January 2023.
  16. ^ "Catalog – (US Spelling)". Collins Dictionary. Archived from the original on 15 January 2023. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  17. ^ "IKEA Business Brochure 2023". Archived from the original on 15 January 2023. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  18. ^ "Avon Catalog". Archived from the original on 15 January 2023. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  19. ^ "The British Library". 12 January 2023. Archived from the original on 31 July 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2023. (last checked 2023-01-12)
  20. ^ "John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners launch first-ever joint Christmas TV Advert, 'Excitable Edgar'". John Lewis & Partners. Archived from the original on 1 March 2023. Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  21. ^ "John Lewis Christmas Campaigns". Archived from the original on 16 February 2023. Retrieved 16 February 2023. (last checked 2023-02-16).
  22. ^ Steven, Daniel. "Self-publishing – In traditional royalty publishing". Daniel N. Steven, LLC. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  23. ^ Steven, Daniel. "What is self-publishing". Daniel N. Steven, LLC. Archived from the original on 1 March 2018. Retrieved 1 March 2018.
  24. ^ "Self-publishing vs vanity publishing. Confused?". Archived from the original on 16 October 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  25. ^ Klems, Brian A. (11 August 2016). "What is Hybrid Publishing? Here Are 4 Things All Writers Should Know". Writer's Digest. Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 9 February 2020.
  26. ^ a b Alter, Alexandra; Lee, Edmund (25 November 2020). "Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 16 November 2021. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  27. ^ Pfanner, Eric; Chozick, Amy (29 October 2012). "Random House and Penguin Merger Creates Global Giant". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 November 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2020.
  28. ^ Losowsky, Andrew (20 February 2013). "Indie Bookstores File Lawsuit Against Amazon". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 12 December 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  29. ^ "U.S. V. Bertelsmann SE & CO. KGaA, et al". 2 November 2021. Archived from the original on 8 August 2022. Retrieved 6 August 2022.[title missing]
  30. ^ Alter, Alexandra; Harris, Elizabeth (31 October 2022). "Judge Blocks a Merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 November 2022. Retrieved 3 December 2022.
  31. ^ "Book Cost Analysis – Cost of Physical Book Publishing – Kindle Review – Kindle Phone Review, Kindle Fire HD Review". Kindle Review. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  32. ^ Shelagh Vainker in Anne Farrer (ed.), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", 1990, British Museum publications, ISBN 0-7141-1447-2.
  33. ^ Dwight Garner (20 May 2008). "Making Reading Easier – Paper Cuts Blog". Archived from the original on 25 August 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  34. ^ "Overview of the Technology- Awards, Cost Savings". Archived from the original on 29 July 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  35. ^ Kanter, James (2 December 2008). "Reading Green On Demand". Green blogs, New York Times. Archived from the original on 31 May 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  36. ^ Rinzler, Alan (29 July 2010). "The Magic of Niche Marketing for Authors". Forbes. Archived from the original on 18 April 2012. Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  37. ^ International Organization for Standardization. "01.140.40: Publishing". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  38. ^ International Organization for Standardization. "35.240.30: IT applications in information, documentation and publishing". Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  39. ^ a b WIPO. "Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works". Archived from the original on 11 September 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  40. ^ a b "Microsoft Word – The Universal Copyright Convention _Geneva Text—September" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 November 2012. Retrieved 19 November 2012.
  41. ^ Winkler, David (11 July 2002). "Journalists Thrown 'Into the Buzzsaw'". Archived from the original on 4 August 2007.
  42. ^ Sue Curry Jansen; Brian Martin (July 2003). "Making censorship backfire". Counterpoise. 7. Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2010.
  43. ^ Newman, Sophia (19 June 2019). "So, Gutenberg Didn't Actually Invent Printing As We Know It". Literary Hub. Archived from the original on 21 December 2020. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  44. ^ Clapham, Michael, "Printing" in A History of Technology, Vol 2. From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution, eds,. Charles Singer et al. (Oxford 1957), p. 377. Cited from Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge University, 1980).
  45. ^ Gazemba, Stanley (13 December 2019). "African Publishing Minefields and the Woes of the African Writer". The Elephant. Archived from the original on 11 February 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
  46. ^ FitzGerald, Jamie (1 November 2013). "Notable Moments in Self-Publishing History: A Timeline". Poets & Writers. Archived from the original on 27 July 2020. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  47. ^ Flood, Alison (27 January 2016). "Publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female, US study finds". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 9 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  48. ^ Lee, Paula Young (26 January 2016). "White women of publishing: New survey shows a lack of diversity behind the scenes in book world". Salon. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  49. ^ Flood, Alison (30 January 2020). "US publishing remains 'as white today as it was four years ago'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 29 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  50. ^ Italie, Hillel (11 February 2020). "Missteps lead publishing industry to review diversity effort". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 10 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.


  • Amory, H., & Hall, D. D. (2005). Bibliography and the book trades : studies in the print culture of early New England. University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Patten, E., McElligott, J. (Eds). (2014). The perils of print culture: book, print and publishing history in theory and practice. Palgrave Macmillan.

External links

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