Book publishing in Canada is a $1.6 billion industry, with Ontario contributing two-thirds of total national operating revenue at $1.1 billion.1
The Ontario publishing ecosystem includes large, foreign-owned publishing firms as well as smaller, Canadian-owned publishers. The Canadian-owned sector in Ontario comprises mainly long-established private corporations, a majority having been in operation for more than 20 years.2 Most of Ontario’s book publishers are English-language, with the industry concentrated in Toronto. Ontario’s nine French-language publishers operate out of the Ottawa area, Greater Sudbury, and Toronto.3
Industry Size and Economic Impact
N.B: The following information on employment, revenue and the consumer market should be considered a snapshot of activity in the industry based on the best available information.4 Many of the figures for Canadian-owned publishers contained in this profile include a very small number of large corporations whose characteristics differ significantly from those of small- and medium-sized book publishers. All dollar figures are in CAD unless otherwise noted.
Employment and wages
- In 2016, Canadian book publishers paid out $380 million in salaries, wages, commissions and benefits, with Ontario accounting for 68% of this total at $257 million. The national figure was down 0.4% and provincial figure down 1.9%, compared to 2014.5
- According to Culture Satellite Account data, the Canadian book publishing sector generated 10,342 jobs in 2016; 6,487 of these were in Ontario.6
- Quill & Quire’s 2018 Salary Survey of Canadian publishing professionals gathered 345 online responses. More than three-quarters of respondents were based in Ontario. Approximately 84% of respondents were female and 15% were male. The average reported salary was $45,100 for women and $60,600 for men.7
Revenues and Related Figures
(N.B. Unless otherwise noted, the following figures include all book publishers in Canada, including both domestically-owned and foreign-owned.)
- In 2016, Canadian book publishers generated $1.6 billion in revenues, down 0.6% from 2014, and had an operating profit margin of 10.2%.8 Of the $1.48 billion in book sales achieved, 52.1% was generated by foreign firms while Canadian-controlled companies had 47.9% of sales.9 Ebook sales made up 13.7% of total book sales value.10
- Ontario book publishers brought in $1.1 billion in operating revenues in 2016, down 0.6% from 2014. Total sales were flat at $1.02 billion, compared to $1.01 billion in 2014.11
- In 2016, Canada’s largest export partner for books was the United States at $373.6 million. Canada’s second and third largest exports of books were to France ($20.1 million) and the United Kingdom ($8.4 million). Book exports were estimated at $436.6 million in total, which is an increase of 1.4% from 2015.12 Ontario generated $240 million worth of exports in 2016.
- According to the last recorded data in 2014, Ontario exported $304.6 million worth of books to other provinces. B.C., Alberta and Quebec are the primary importers of Ontario books.13
- In 2011, Ontario-based, Canadian-owned book publishers earned just over $319 million in total revenue. They spent slightly over $263.7 million in operating expenditures. Just over $116.8 million, or 44%, was spent in Ontario.14
- According to Statistics Canada, in 2016, total Canadian book sales increased 0.5% from 2014 to $1.4 billion. Canadian authors accounted for 51.1% of total 2016 sales, amounting to $701.2 million.15
- In 2017, nationwide sales of print books through traditional channels increased compared to 2016 levels. The total market was up 4.4% to $1.03 billion in sales, with 51.4 million in unit sales, up 1.7% from the previous year.16
- In 2017, Canadian-owned publishers reported a sales volume of 2.9 million units, with corresponding retail sales revenues of $51.2 million. This represents an increase of 5.6% in units sold and a 5.0% increase in sales revenue from 2016. The average list price in 2017 of $19.44 and $12.52 respectively for trade and mass market paperbacks from Canadian-owned publishers is a slight increase from 2016 average prices.17
- Juvenile (including Young Adult) was the best-selling genre in Canada in 2017, with a 39.9% share of total unit sales through traditional book retailers, representing 29.1% of the value of the total book market. Non-Fiction came in second with a 32.4% share of units sold, and 43.9% of sales value.18
- Electronic sales in Canada increased in 2016 compared to 2014. Total sales of e-books went up 11.6% ($1.02 billion), while internet sales of print titles grew 8.6% ($165.8 million).19
- In 2017, Canadian publishers reported that ebook retailers and wholesalers were the most popular sales channels for e-books, with 96% and 78% using these channels (respectively). About a quarter (24%) of trade and consumer publishing firms found their digital revenue increased 11-25% between 2016 and 2017, and digital revenue was flat for 30% of companies.20
- Statistics Canada’s inaugural Digital Economy Survey (for the period July 2017-June 2018), found that e-books are the most popular digital reading product purchased by Canadians, followed by online subscriptions to newspapers. The average purchaser spent $136 on digital reading products, which also include audiobooks, magazines and podcasts. Approximately one-third of the population purchases these kinds of products.21
- The 2017 edition of an annual BookNet survey examining how Canadians spend their free time found that reading classes as a top 2 leisure activity for 21% of respondents, in fourth place behind Spending time with family, Watching TV, and Browsing the Internet, but ahead of Watching a movie. More than 8 out of 10 survey respondents (81%) said they had read or listened to a book in the last year. This number has been slowly decreasing year over year (by no more that 1% annually) since 2015.22
- More than half (52%) of Canadians purchase books in person and 45% purchase online. Paperbacks are the most purchased format (55% of sales), followed by hardcover (25%), e-book (17%), audiobook (2%) and other formats (2%).23
- In 2017, the vast majority of Canadian book buyers are interested in reading books by Canadian authors (84%)–this is up from 75% in 2012.24
- A 2017 Scholastic Canada study found that 80% of children aged 6-17 will always want to read print books even though e-books are available, with this sentiment particularly felt among frequent and moderately frequent readers. In addition, of the 40% of children aged 6-17 who have read an e-book, 67% prefer print, 23% have no preference and only 10% prefer e-books.25
Trends and Issues
This section provides information on growth rates, trends and burgeoning issues in the global and domestic book industry.
Growth rate and industry trends
- According to PwC, global book revenue (this includes consumer, educational and professional book revenue) reached US $116.9 billion in 2017, and is projected to see a 1.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) to US $125.8 billion by 2022. PwC expects that consumer books will see the strongest rate of growth over the next five years. Consumer e-book revenue has slowed down over the past few years, but it will see modest growth over the next five years, as it is predicted to increase at a rate of 5.1% CAGR to reach US $14.1 billion by 2022, from US $11 billion in 2017.
- In 2017, total educational book revenue was estimated at US $37.1 billion, and is expected to increase to US $39.7 billion by 2022, a 1.4% CAGR growth. Government funding has a significant impact on educational book revenues, thus making it sensitive to economic changes. Publishers and governments have prioritized digital textbooks in recent years, and educational e-book sales are expected to have a 10.8% CAGR growth over the five year period. It is expected that by 2022, 20.4% of total educational book revenues will come from the sale of educational e-books.26
- PwC predicts that the professional book market will be stagnant over the next five years, going from US $21 billion in 2017 to US $21.8 billion in 2022, a 0.7% CAGR growth. Professional print/audiobook revenue will decline -3.1% CAGR over the next five year period. However, it is expected that by 2022, 43% of professional book revenues will come from electronic sales, as more publishers are switching to digital formats, due to their accessibility.27
- PwC reports that Canada’s publishing industry is growing at twice the speed of the US market, with the total revenue of 2017 estimated at US $1.8 billion. In 2017, Canadians bought 51.1 million print books, according to BookNet Canada. E-books and digital audiobooks are in addition to this figure.28
- Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 33% increase in audiobook circulation via libraries in Canada, according to data from OverDrive, a major supplier of digital content to libraries. At Canadian urban libraries, digital audiobook loans have been increasing at a rate of about 38% per year.29 In September 2017, Audible announced its expansion to Canada with Audible.ca, an audiobook site focused on Canadian customers.30 Kobo announced a partnership with Walmart in the U.S. to make digital books available in a bricks and mortar retail setting, as is currently the case through their Indigo partnerships in Canada.31
- According to BookNet Canada’s The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2017, 80% of publishers agree that digital is fully integrated across their businesses. 96% of firms are producing or just starting to produce e-books, with only 4% with no plans to do so. With 69% of publishers reporting that year-over-year sales are either growing slowly or staying flat and for those who reported growing sales, most agreed that they feel it was due to marketing efforts (53%) or a maturing market (44%). 57% of firms expect sales to stay the same as last year, which is the same as we saw in 2016. Firms who are expecting sales to decrease rose slightly from 7% in 2016 to 10% in 2017. These publishers identify that in 2017 the majority (75%) of their Canadian sales were in print, and 23% were in digital.32
- A gap analysis study commissioned by eBOUND Canada compares the availability of Canadian titles in print format in Canadian public libraries, to the availability of those same titles in digital and ebook formats. The study demonstrated significant gaps between the availability of various publication formats in libraries, trends indicating that libraries tended to favour purchasing titles in single format, most often being print. Overall, less than 7% of Canadian titles in Canadian libraries from those sampled were available in both formats.33
- Two recent studies explore Canadian books in the classroom. According to an Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) report, Digital Trends and Initiatives in Education, lack of financial resources and funding is the main reason for the discrepancy between the uses of digital content versus print-based resources in Canadian classrooms.34 Survey results from an Ontario Book Publishers Organization (OBPO) study revealed that Ontario intermediate and secondary schools are using a fairly low proportion of Canadian books in English classes. Overall, teachers support the notion of using Canadian books, but budgetary constraints prevent them from doing so. The study suggests steps be taken to incorporate more Canadian content that fits the curriculum.35
Global and domestic issues
- The United States is a significant export partner for Canadian book publishers. Canada recently concluded the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Canadian-owned publishers publish the vast majority of new Canadian authored books each year. Many earn more than half of their annual revenues from exports to the United States.36
- A statutory review of Canada’s Copyright Act is currently underway, led by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains.37 Copyright is an important issue for Canadian publishers, and the “fair use” exemption within the Copyright Modernization Act means that educational institutions are no longer required to pay for copyrighted material, which impacted the publishing industry as loss of revenue has been reported at up to US $50 million a year.38
- In February 2018, legal action was launched by Ministries of Education in all provinces and territories (except in Quebec, and only in Ontario through the provinces’ school boards) against Access Copyright, the collective licensing agency for Canadian authors and publishers, demanding more than $25 million collected under a legally certified tariff for the period of 2010 to 2012. The Association of Canadian Publishers issued a statement supporting Access Copyright and calling on Ministries of Education and Ontario school boards to drop their legal action.39
- Several recent articles highlight the issue of a lack of diverse staff (in particular, people of colour, and people with disabilities) within the publishing industry. Many are calling for the book publishing industry to take a look at accessibility and inclusion at every step of their hiring processes in the hopes of establishing real change.40 The Association of Canadian Publishers launched a baseline survey to measure industry diversity, inspired by the Lee & Low study in the U.S.41
- Allegations of sexual harassment in the publishing industry have come to light in the last year, which has resulted in the cancellation of book deals, boycotts of bookstores, and expulsions from writers’ conferences. In an industry that is overwhelmingly female – women accounting for approximately 80% of people working in publishing – publishers, agents, and editors alike are grappling with how best to address and tackle this significant issue.42
- In June 2016, Rakuten Kobo won a federal third-party appeal as Canada’s Competition Tribunal moved to rescind the 2014 consent agreement on e-book pricing between the Competition Bureau and four of Canada’s largest e-book publishers: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Shuster. The consent agreement would have granted e-book pricing capabilities to retailers over book publishers.43 However, in February 2018, federal courts ruled against e-book retailer Rakuten Kobo in its challenge of several agreements the Commissioner of Competition made with book publishers.44 Previously, HarperCollins agreed to donate $150,000 in books as part of a settlement with the Competition Bureau which ended years-long litigation following allegations of collusion to fix ebook prices through distribution agreements with individual retailers.45
- Federal policy on foreign investment in Canada’s book publishing industry is being closely watched by book industry stakeholders. Currently, the Investment Canada Act prohibits foreign ownership in the book publishing, distribution and retail sectors in Canada unless the Department of Canadian Heritage determines that an exception should be made because the foreign ownership will provide a net benefit to Canada.46 The Department of Canadian Heritage consulted with stakeholders on the policy in 2010, but to date no changes have been made. Reaction to the foreign investment policy and how it is being implemented differs among segments of the publishing industry. The Association of Canadian Publishers has gone on record advocating that Canada’s foreign investment policy for the book industry retain the current restrictions on foreign control, and that any changes include transparency and reporting mechanisms on the effectiveness of net benefits arising from foreign undertakings.47
- In 2018-19, Ontario publishers have access to provincial funding through several Ontario Creates programs and a tax credit: the Book Fund, the Export Fund and the Ontario Book Publishing Tax Credit (OBPTC). Through its Industry Development Program, Ontario Creates also provides support to book industry organizations for events and activities that stimulate growth of the industry. The Canadian Books in Ontario Schools Fund supports publishers to create learning materials for established works of Canadian literature and for collective marketing activities to raise awareness among education professionals about Canadian titles suitable for use in their classrooms.
- The Department of Canadian Heritage provides $39.5 million in annual federal industry support through the Canada Book Fund.49
- In June 2018, the Department of Canadian Heritage launched a new Creative Export Strategy. The Strategy includes three pillars: increasing export funding through existing programs, such as the Canada Book Fund; strengthening the presence of Canadian creative industries abroad with additional staff resources and tools; and the creation of Creative Export Canada, a new $7-million-per-year export program for creative industries companies including those in the publishing industries.50
- Other funding mechanisms at the federal and provincial levels include the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council’s Block Grants to Book Publishers. The Trillium Book Award, administered by Ontario Creates, recognizes excellence among Ontario writers as the province’s leading award for literature. Kyo Maclear was the winner of the 2018 Trillium Book Award (English) for Birds Art Life (Doubleday Canada), Aurélie Resch won the Trillium Book Award (French) for Sous le soleil de midi (Éditions Prise de parole), the Trillium Book Award for Poetry (English) went to Pino Coluccio for Class Clown (Biblioasis), and Sylvie Bérard won the Trillium Book Award for Poetry (French) for Oubliez (Éditions Prise de parole). Past Trillium winners include Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Timothy Findley, Ian Brown, Michèle Matteau and Alice Munro.
Ontario authors and publishers are frequently lauded for their outstanding work:
- The Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist for 2018 includes several Ontario authors and publishers, including Patrick deWitt for French Exit (House of Anansi Press), Sheila Heti’s Motherhood (Knopf Canada), and Thea Lim for An Ocean of Minutes (Viking Canada). Ontario author Michael Redhill won the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel, Bellevue Square (Doubleday Canada).
- The 2018 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize finalists include books published by independent Ontario publishers, such as Jen Neale’s Land Mammals and Sea Creatures (ECW Press) and Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page (Bibilioasis). These presses are also behind books named as finalists for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Awards, as are titles published by Ontario’s Coach House Books, Playwrights Canada Press, House of Anansi Press, Kids Can Press, Groundwood Books, and University of Ottawa Press.
- Ontario author and Ontario Creates board chair Mark Sakamoto’s Forgiveness (HarperCollins) won Canada Reads 2018. Sakamoto’s novel – which was championed by fashion icon and TV host, Jeanne Beker – follows Sakamoto’s maternal grandfather as a Prisoner of War in Japan during the Second World War while his paternal Japanese-Canadian grandmother is interned in Canada.
- The quality of Ontario’s juvenile publishing sector is recognized on the world stage. Kids Can Press was named North American Publisher of the Year at the 2017 Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The honour was also won by an Ontario press in 2016: Groundwood Books. Toronto-based author, Cherie Dimaline, won the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award in the category of Young People’s Literature as well as the U.S Kirkus Prize, for her novel, The Marrow Thieves, published by Cormorant Books. Toronto illustrator, Sydney Smith, made the New York Times list of Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2017 for the picture book Town Is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz and published by Groundwood Books.
Profile current as of October 3, 2018
4 Ontario Creates relies on the most recent Statistics Canada data releases to compile this profile. There is a period of time needed for Statistics Canada to collect the data (e.g. receipt of income tax returns) and compile the data releases. Statistics Canada book industry statistics for the year 2018 are expected in early 2020.
5 Statistics Canada, “Book publishing industry,” The Daily, March 23, 2018.
6 Statistics Canada, “Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators, 2010 to 2016,” The Daily, February 27, 2018. Note: Figures are from the product perspective.
8 Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0200-01 Book publishers, summary statistics (Accessed: August 24, 2018).
9 Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0202-01 Book publishers, detailed financial statistics by country of control (Accessed: September 13, 2018).
10 Statistics Canada. Table 21-10-0205-01 Book publishers, electronic sales (x 1,000,000) (Accessed September 17, 2018).
11 Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0200-01 Book publishers, summary statistics (Accessed: August 24, 2018); Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0202-01 Book publishers, detailed financial statistics by country of control (x 1,000,000). Country of control information is not available at the provincial level.
12 Statistics Canada, Table 12-10-0117-01 International trade of culture and sport products, by domain and sub-domain, and trading partner (x 1,000,000) (accessed: August 22, 2018).
13 Statistics Canada, Table 12-10-0116-01 International and inter-provincial trade of culture and sport products, by domain and sub-domain, provinces and territories (x 1,000,000) (accessed: August 22, 2018).
15 Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0204-01 Book publishers, sales by nationality of authors (x 1,000,000) (Accessed October 3, 2018.)
19 Statistics Canada, Table: 21-10-0042-01 – Book publishers, net value of book sales by customer category (accessed June 8, 2018); Statistics Canada, Statistics Canada. Table: 21-0206-01 – Book publishers, sales of books by language of printing (x 1,000,000) (accessed June 11, 2018); Statistics Canada. Table 21-0205-01 – Book publishers, electronic sales (x 1,000,000) (accessed June 11, 2018).
20 BookNet Canada. The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2017.
21 Statistics Canada, “Digital economy, July 2017 to June 2018,” The Daily, August 29, 2018.
22 Kira Harkonen, “What are Canadians up to in their free time?” BookNet Canada, April 26, 2018.
23 BookNet Canada, The Canadian Book Buyer 2015, October 2015.
24 BookNet Canada, Canadians Reading Canadians 2017, July 2017.
29 BookNet Canada, Are You Still Listening? Audiobook Use in Canada 2016, November 2016, p.30.
31 Ryan Porter, “Walmart announces ebook, audiobook partnership with Canadian-based Rakuten Kobo,” Quill & Quire, August 22, 2018.
32 BookNet Canada, The State of Digital Publishing in Canada 2017, May 2018.
35 Ontario Book Publishers Organization, Use of Canadian Books in Ontario Public and Catholic Intermediate and Secondary English Departments: Results of a Survey of Teachers of Grades 7 through 12, June 2017.
36 Press Release, “Canadian publishers welcome the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s continued protection of cultural industries,” ACP, October 2, 2018.
37 Press Release, “Parliament to undertake review of the Copyright Act,” Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, December 14, 2017.
39 Press Release, “ACP statement on litigation between K-12 sector and Access Copyright,” Association of Canadian Publishers, July 23, 2018.
40 c.f. Alaina Leary, “Why The Publishing Industry Needs To Be More Inclusive Of Autistic And Disabled People,” Bustle, January 2018; Adam Pottle, “2018 Salary Survey: Adam Pottle on the lack of disabled writers and insufficient industry representation,” Quill & Quire, May 17, 2018; Léonicka Valcius, “2018 Salary Survey: Léonicka Valcius on reaching non-white audiences within the confines of an old publishing system,” Quill & Quire, May 17, 2018.
41 Press Release, “ACP launches Canadian Book Publishing Diversity Baseline Survey,” Association of Canadian Publishers, July 16, 2018.
43 Becky Robertson. “Kobo’s ebook pricing appeal win upholds status quo (for now),” Quill & Quire, September 12, 2016.
45 Dory Cerny, “HarperCollins donates $150,000 in books as part of settlement with Competition Bureau,” Quill & Quire, January 10, 2018.
47 Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP), submission to the Department of Canadian Heritage on Review of the Revised Foreign Investment Policy in Book Publishing and Distribution, 2010.
48 The information included in this section is an overview of some of the government support to the book publishing sector. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of government support available.
49 Press Release, “Government of Canada Renews Investments in Canadian Books with an Emphasis on Digital Technologies,” Department of Canadian Heritage, September 22, 2009; Department of Finance Canada, The Road to Balance: Creating Jobs and Opportunities, February 11, 2014.
50 Press Release, “Minister Joly Launches the new Creative Export Strategy for Creative Industries, Including a New Export Funding Program,” Department of Canadian Heritage, June 26, 2018.