Beyond Publishers

What we often miss, when speaking about the “Book Business”

A research project by Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting 2023

When researching the Global 50 Ranking of the Publishing Industry 2022, I realized that this survey on the biggest actors in the international publishing business has major blind spots. Their scope and relevance is expanding. In 2022, Amazon’s payout from Kindle Unlimited to small presses and authors alone added up to half a billion US dollars.

Over the past decade, the traditional value chain of authors or agents > publishers (as gatekeepers) > distributors > bookshops > consumers and readers has been replaced partly by an increasing variety of different models.

It began with self-publishing services like Amazon’s Kindle Direct, with a focus on just a few niche genres like romance or fantasy. Strongly performing bestseller authors got more entrepreneurial, using publishers and distributors just as providers of services. Authors’ writing hubs evolved into cross-media hubs, rebranded as “studios” for generating industrialized serialized storytelling. Publishing corporations figured out how to tap into such environments for discovering and fostering new creative talent. Today’s ebook and audiobook platforms have by and large abandoned selling books altogether, and instead provide consumers with services for accessing a huge library.

From a bird’s-eye view, the business of books operates less and less as a linear “value chain”. It resembles more an open sea, with a few major continents, plus lots and lots of islands and archipelagos of various sizes and shapes.

Beyond Publishers” is a research effort to

  • Map business actors and describe creation and exploitation models, and
  • Develop reasonable estimates of their respective scale and scope.

Questions to be researched in “Beyond Publishers” include:

  • What do we often miss when discussing the „Book Business“?
  • How do platforms like Spotify, Webtoons or Tonies compare to a bookshop?
  • Why, and how, a digital social media like Tiktok inspires the selling of print?
  • How are publishing processes changed with these various new models?
  • How can I measure the scope of such „publishing“ in a „Global Publishing Ranking“?
  • How can we include „self publishing“, „subscription“ or „streaming“ in book statistics?
  • How do we define what is a „book“ today? And why does it matter?

Find out more in the presentation “Beyond Publishers

Become a part of our effort!

Be a sponsor, or contribute data, or provide insights with a short questionnaire

Contact for suggestions and questions:
Wien, March 2023

Beyond Publishers

Researching the scope and diversity in non-traditional models in the book business today

Hammering Man in Frankfurt, Germany
Hammering Man
Please help us with some research on the book industry by filling out a short questionnaire! (And receive a small gift).
We need your input, observations, and insights to better understand today’s dynamic expansion of nontraditional publishing, book distribution, and marketing models – when authors successfully find an audience without first approaching a publisher or agent, the traditional entry points and gatekeepers to the book business.
Today, the publishing industry “Beyond Publishers” is
  • Far more diverse;
  • Much more complex, and also more adaptable;
  • Probably bigger than one might expect.
Why is this important?
For most of these offerings, we find no concrete data. And hardly anything shows up in the usual book statistics.
Therefore we ask you to use this link for filling out a questionnaire with a total of just 3 questions (in German or English).
When done, we’ll offer you a surprise gift!
Thank you very much!


Global 50 CEO Talk 2022 "Beyond Publishers": Ashleigh Gardner and Michael Tamblyn on "New facets of the global book business today."

The Global 50 CEO Talk 2022, held in partnership with the Frankfurt Book Fair Studio on Wednesday, October 19, 2022, from 14.00 to 15.00, will explore the book business beyond traditional publishers.

In recent years, the novel ways of how authors exploit their intellectual property (or IP) have opened wide and highly productive fields of creation, radically expanding what books, publishing and reading encompasses today:

  • Authors are building critical communities of readers online;
  • Well established bestselling authors are going ‘direct’ by publishing their books themselves;
  • Cross-media exploitation intertwining books, movies and games have expanded;
  • Industry sized cooperations between digital platforms and retailers have become well established practices;
  • With the success of graphic novels and manga, traditional boundaries between gernes of narrative fiction have blurred;
  • New business models have surged, including freemium and subscription, curated access to collections and both broad as well as highly specialized niche collections of titles.

This year’s CEO Talk will shed light on the game changing dynamics resulting from these non-traditional publishing models and explore the opportunities with thought leaders from two of the world’s largest platforms in this regard:

  • Ashleigh Gardner (Wattpad WEBTOON, Canada/Korea), and
  • Michael Tamblyn (Kobo Rakuten, Canada).

The Global 50 CEO Talk is prepared in conjunction with the Global 50 Publishing Ranking of the publishing industry, mapping the 50 largest publishing corporations each year since 2007

This ranking is listing the world’s 50 largest publishing companies, who in 2021 generated publishing revenues of 58.8 bnEUR in 2021 (66.7 bnUSD).

The Global 50 Publishing Ranking is researched by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting, and published by Bookdao (PR China), The Bookseller (UK), buchreport (Germany), Livres Hebdo (France) and Publishers Weekly (US).

The Global 50 Ranking and CEO Talk are supported by Bookwire ( )

Ashleigh Gardner (Wattpad WEBTOON Studios)

About Ashleigh Gardner (Wattpad WEBTOON Studios):

As Senior Vice President, Managing Director Global Publishing, Ashleigh Gardner works with writers and publishers around the world to turn stories and digital comics from Wattpad and WEBTOON into books and graphic novels. Under Ashleigh’s leadership, the Wattpad WEBTOON Book Group is reshaping the publishing industry by leveraging data and insights from the one billion uploads that have been shared on Wattpad to find future best-sellers. In addition to publishing stories under the Wattpad Books and W imprints, Ashleigh sells translation rights, creating global imprints in partnership with some of the leading publishers around the world. 


Michael Tamblyn (Rakuten Kobo CEO)

Michael Tamblyn, President and Chief Executive Officer at Rakuten Kobo, drives growth, profitability and international expansion in a fiercely competitive market. He combines a passion for reading with a deep focus on hardware and software experiences. In addition to leading Rakuten Kobo, the global digital bookseller, he advises start-ups focused on aging and technology as Chief Entrepreneur of Age-Well NCE, is on the board of directors of the Law Commission of Ontario, Ontario’s law reform body, as well as The Power Plant, Toronto’s foremost contemporary art gallery. Michael has been a part of Rakuten Kobo’s executive team since its inception in 2009, and previously held the role of Chief Content Officer. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario.


The Global 50 Publishing Ranking 2022: Growth for the largest publishing groups - Continuing consolidation - New business models expanding.

The Global 50 Publishing Ranking 2022 lists and analyzes 50 leading publishing corporations worldwide with combined reported revenue for fiscal 2021 of 58,846 mEUR (66,655 mUSD).

Overall, and particularly among the top 20, the leaders in the global book business saw a significant upswing in their aggregated revenue. The top 10 along account for over half of the turnover in the top 50.

Global 50 Publishing Ranking 2017 to 2021
Global 50 Publishing Ranking: Aggregated revenue 2017 to 2021

By publishing sector, trade – or consumer book publishers – saw the largest winners. Science technical and medical (STM) as well as professional publishers fared well, albeit without major ups and downs, stabilizing after an earlier period of remarkable expansion in both revenue and offered services. In Education, some of the largest providers of higher education materials confronted challenges for some time, while some smaller contenders could strengthen their market position by diversifying their offerings and by some acquisitions.

Consolidation, seen across the board for several years, continued, with the two largest maneuvers still pending – the acquisition of American Simon and Schuster by Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House, and the announced takeover of Hachette, the largest publishing group in France, by cross-media giant Vivendi. But also, in logistics and fulfillment, and in retail, highly consequential structural shifts can be seen in many markets.

An industry traditionally focused on producing and selling productsbooks – is seeing a rise in complex services to the end consumer, as access and convenience in discoverability for highly specialized and segmented consumer demand are the drivers in today’s transformation.

The Global 50 Publishing Ranking is researched by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting, and published by Bookdao (PR China), The Bookseller (UK), buchreport (Germany), Livres Hebdo (France) and Publishers Weekly (US).

The Global 50 Ranking and CEO Talk are supported by Bookwire ( )

The full Global 50 report, with the big list, an analysis and data rich company profiles will be available as a digital publication of around 250 pages from Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at , and at websites of Bookwire, Bookdao, Livres Hebdo and Publishers Weekly.

About Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting:

Ruediger Wischenbart founded Content and Consulting in 2005, to create market reports and professional industry events for the international book industry with a particular emphasis on innovation and thought leadership.

Recent activities include the Digital Consumer Book Barometer series of reports (, the Global 50 Publishing Ranking ( ) and the ReBoot Books series of debates ( , together with Carlo Carrenho and Klaus-Peter Stegen)


Vienna, September 13, 2022

“The recent digital growth is here to stay.” The new Digital Barometer (June 2022) is out now!

Consistent digital growth to a new level of digital book consumption, led by growth audiobooks and in new ’access’ driven distribution models across markets as diverse as Germany, Italy, Spain, Hispanic America, Brazil and Canada!

The Digital Consumer Book Barometer provides detailed insights and analysis based on solid and exclusive market data from digital distributors, as guidance for digital book marketing.

The big question was: “Is digital growth, as observed under the pandemic, here to stay?” Two years on, the answer is clear and positive. This is the core learning from the new Digital Consumer Book Barometer 2022, a thorough analysis based on sales data across different markets, various digital formats like ebooks and audiobooks, with comparisons between diverse genre categories, from fiction and nonfiction to children and young adult reading, romance, fantasy, and also education.

Findings include notably the following trends:

  • Audiobooks spearhead the expansion, fueled notably by ‘access’ driven distribution and business models, such as subscription, streaming and lending from public libraries;
  • As digital catalogues have expanded, children books and young adult reading found new audiences, but also other genre categories (such as nonfiction and educational, which include self-help, self-improvement, spirituality);
  • Download sales for both ebooks and audiobooks continue to have a mainstream following in German language markets, while subscription and streaming are increasingly replacing downloads in Hispanic markets and in Brazil;
  • Average price levels went significantly up across all territories, with the sole exception of Brazil;
  • An increasing share of pre-orders for newly released titles indicate more targeted marketing approaches by publishers.

The Digital Consumer Book Barometer provides a granular and efficient toolset for understanding all these complexities and shifting patterns, segment by segment and territory by territory.

The Digital Barometer has been created by Ruediger Wischenbart Content and Consulting and is updated regularly since 2018.

The current #June2022 edition, available for download at, and has been supported by sponsors, notably Bookwire, De Marque, and IPDA.


Vienna, in June 2022

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