Flash: Books Make Profit!

Revenues in Canada’s book publishing industry exceeded $2 billion in 2004, and foreign-controlled companies accounted for almost half of the industry revenues, according to the latest data from a survey of book publishers.

In fact, 19 foreign-controlled publishers, who represented less than 6% of all companies surveyed, accounted for 47% of total revenues for the book publishers surveyed in 2004.

In total, the 330 book publishers covered by the survey had revenues of more than $2 billion in 2004, up 12.5% from 2000. The 19 foreign-controlled book publishers alone had revenues of $949 million.

In terms of revenue from book sales in Canada, the share held by foreign-controlled publishers was even higher. Their revenues from Canadian book sales reached $808 million in 2004, 59% of the total of almost $1.4 billion.

Book publishers had a total industry profit of $235 million in 2004, for a profit margin of 10.9%. In both 1998 and 2000 the profit margin was 11.1%. Of the book publishers surveyed in 2004, 62% made a profit.

The Daily, Friday, June 30, 2006. Book publishers

It’s hard to disaggregate some of these figures (though there’s a decent chart on the Daily page), but law books would fall into the “other” category“”This includes scholarly, reference, professional and technical books.“, which books earned $196,538,000 from sales in Canada. Over 61% of all concerns made a profit, having a before-tax profit marginoperating revenue minus other expenses, expressed as a percentage of operating revenue of 12.9%.

Of interest:

The book publishing industry has low labour costs because many publishers use contract staff for services such as editing and design. Of the book publishing companies surveyed, one-fifth of the personnel were contract workers.


  1. Ah the old nationalist canard in Canadian publishing. The bad old foreign houses have a robust publishing programme focussed on finding, nurturing and publishing Canadian talent. If one looks at what Penguin Canada, Doubleday and latterly Random House have done for Canadian talent, one can see that it’s not quite as black and white as it might appear from reading the reports from the DCH, where the’re regarded as either villains or tolerated interlopers.
    The fact remains that despite Avie Bennett’s noble efforts (and Jack McLelland’s marketing savvy) M&S would simply not exist if it wasn’t for the Bertellsmann connection. The collapse of Stoddart was caused by many things, but not by lack of government support for Canadian publishing. See http://www.dooneyscafe.com/print.php?sid=165
    No the problems come because of a distribution system that permits massive amounts of inventory to be carried on a consignment basis. Returns have been running at astronomical levels. And the consolidation at the retail level, the margins that Chapters/Indigo have insisted on, and slow payments by the retail/wholesale distribution chain on accounts payable have done more to damage Canadian publishing than any foreign initiatives.
    As for professional publishing – and in particular law books – print runs are much smaller (and increasingly done on a job basis as orders are received), marketing expenses are virtually non-existent and consignment returns are unknown. No Chapters/Indigo bottleneck.
    [Lest some legal publisher tell me that they do market, they don’t do anything in comparison with the expense of the Canadian Book Expo, author tours or half page ads in the Book Section of the Saturday Globe.
    It’s a much more robust economic model, but the print-runs are so low, that prices are high. There is virtually no price resistance in the same way that there is with trade.