The profession

Book publishing embraces every human activity from the most sublime to the most mundane. Publishing is basically a marketing activity, in which finance is the critical tool. The publisher’s role is to place his authors’ content in the market. He is then obliged, through marketing and publicity, to provide it with the oxygen that allows it to breathe in that marketplace.

The publisher provides the finance necessary to transform a writer’s work into a manufactured book (or digital product). This process involves a series of costs: it is the publisher’s job to assume these costs and to discharge them. A publisher therefore has a role similar in kind to a movie producer or a theatre impresario. Someone has to shoulder the financial risk of a project, manage that risk and turn it into a profit. That someone is the publisher.

In the European Union, the publishing industry adds up to tens of thousands of publishing houses employing 140.000 people directly and hundreds of thousands indirectly. European publishing generates combined revenues of over €23 billion. European publishing is a world leader, the only knowledge and entertainment sector where this is so. Most of the world’s largest publishing conglomerates are European.

The world’s three major international book fairs – Frankfurt, London and Bologna – are held in Europe. In no other comparable industry does Europe outrank the United States: indeed many major American publishing houses are owned by European multi-nationals. European publishing ranges from tiny enterprises employing a proprietor and one or two others to enormous international businesses employing many thousands of people. It is the means by which culture, literature, scholarship, science, technology and professional information are conveyed to the world.

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