17 Academic Publishing Industry Statistics and Trends

The academic publishing industry covers two import segments: journal publications and textbooks. Although the textbook sector has been struggling in recent years, the article-publishing component of the industry has been growing rapidly.

In 2016, there were over 567,000 medical articles that were published in academic journals around the world. That was twice as many as the number of engineering articles that were published. PLOS ONE was ranked as the top journal in terms of total publications in 2016, featuring over 21,000 content items. Scientific Reports came in second, the only other journal to top the 20,000-item mark.

As for the institutions who are active in the academic publishing industry, 60% of the top publishers are based in China. The Chinese Academy of Sciences led the world in total content items, with more than 20,000 published. The Universidade de Sao Paolo came in second, publishing over 10,000 content items.

Since 2006, there has been a 56% increase in the number of academic publications that have occurred. India has led the way in growth, with a 190% increase in total publications.

Interesting Academic Publishing Statistics

#1. Revenues from higher education books that were published in 2017 was relatively flat, showing a gain of just 0.5%. Revenues from academic books published for the pre-K through Grade 12 population declined by 2.9%. (Publishing Perspectives)

#2. Total textbook publishing revenues in the United States reached $11.17 billion in 2016, combining all forms of publishing for the industry. Although this is down from the $11.76 billion reached in 2015, it is still higher than the $8.5 billion average that has occurred since 2010. (Statista)

#3. 32% of published who independently published academic works reported that they experienced sales growth in 2016. Another 41% of independent publishers described their financial situation as “stable” when compared to the year before. (Harbottle and Lewis)

#4. Although open access publishing is worth less than 5% of the overall monograph output for the academic publishing industry, it is one of the fasted growing sectors of the industry. (Independent Publishers Guild)

#5. University budgets are being pressured to cut costs whenever possible. 80% of the libraries in Europe and North America reported that their budget was either flat or reduced for the 2016 academic year. 70% reported decreasing journal budgets as well. (Independent Publishers Guild)

#6. The global STM journal market has grown to $10 billion, according to 2013 figures that have been released, which is $2 billion higher than the revenues generated in 2008. Over that period, the average annual rate of growth was 4.5%. (Independent Publishers Guild)

#7. Global growth in academic publishing is strong, with 2.2 million articles published in 2016 within the industry. The two areas of largest growth were the energy and medical fields. (American Journal Experts)

#8. The United States was the top publishing country in the world, contributing over 481,000 total papers to the academic publishing industry. China came in second, producing over 393,000 articles. The UK, Germany, and India round out the top 5. (American Journal Experts)

#9. In 2016, Chinese researchers were responsible for about 18% of the worldwide total of academic publications. Since 2006, there has been a 151% increase in the number of publications that have occurred. (American Journal Experts)

#10. Elsevier is the largest publisher of academic research in the world. In 2015, the industry had an annual income of $25.2 billion, of which Elsevier contributed about 10% to the final total. Springer Nature is another top producer, with $1.75 billion in revenue, while John Wiley and Sons have sales of about $1.73 billion annually. (Enago Academy)

#11. For the U.S. textbook industry, about $14 billion in total value is generated each year. The market represents just 1% of the total educational spending that occurs in the United States each year. (Disruptive Competition Project)

#12. The price of a textbook has risen by 800% since the 1980s. That rate is faster than even the medical services industry, which saw a 575% increase. Over the same time period, the consumer price index rose by just 250%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

#13. The average student will pay over $900 per year on their academic materials that are required for their learning. (Disruptive Competition Project)

#14. From 2012 figures, McGraw-Hill had the largest profit margin in the academic textbook industry at 25%. They are followed by Wiley at 15% and Pearson at 10%. Total profit margins have increased by an average of 2.5% since 2003. (Disruptive Competition Project)

#15. Harvard is currently paying $3.75 million each year to maintain their current journal subscriptions. This cost represents 10% of the total cost of everything that the library acquires. (U.S. News and World Report)

#16. The prices for online content from just two providers for Harvard have increased by 145% in the past 6 years, which even exceeds the higher education price indices. (U.S. News and World Report)

#17. Non-profit publishing houses once dominated the academic publishing industry. Now about 50% of global academic journals are part of commercial for-profit publishing houses. (U.S. News and World Report)

Academic Publishing Industry Trends and Analysis

Scholarly publishing is enduring three separate evolutions simultaneously: publishers are becoming more independent, there is a digital revolution going on, and there is increased access to academic content wanted by the general public.

The average person will pay a $145 annual subscription to the Journal of Financial Economics, but if a library were to subscribe, the cost would be more than $4,200 per year. In 2015, a library subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine was over $5,000. For the last year that library financials are available, which is 2012, 69% of the overall budget for the average library is for journal subscriptions.

When this is combined with the higher costs of academic textbooks, the rental and e-book markets are understandably rising. Expect traditional publishing revenues to continue declining, journal publication revenues continuing to rise, and more individuals seeking out personal subscriptions to their preferred journals as a time-savings measure.

Many of the smaller publishers in the industry have been purchased by major publishers in the past 20 years. Although the business model is changing, the need for this content is growing. Only time will tell how much growth can actually be achieved.