Top academic publishing companies you should know about

Selecting the top academic publishing company

Bigger, Better, Niche

We live in an era where some axioms remain unchallenged, despite their evident flaws. “Change is good”, we often hear, even as most people prefer things to stay pretty much the same.

“Bigger is better” is another fallacy in so many instances.

Anyone who has travelled through beautiful small-town airports, with the car park still visible from the plane would tell you it is an infinitely better experience than rushing between terminals A and F at Heathrow, De Gaulle or Frankfurt. Oh, for once to be a fly on the wall in a boardroom where someone proposes: “I have a great idea – let’s make it smaller and more personal.”

So, when deciding which companies deserve a mention in the world of educational and academic publishing, we decided to top our list with the remarkable success story of a niche publisher with its roots in Germany, Verlag Barbara Budrich.

Nowhere else is the same dedication to each author’s personal success, the culture of partnership, and the investment in every person that comes through their door this evident. When companies grow large, clients take a number. That is not the case with our top-ranked publisher at all.  (For animal lovers, you may understand why we would be partial to a place where Bonnie, the doggie, has a spot on the Team Sheet as Entertainment Manager.)


Marquee Names

The research interests of young academics typically push them towards the publishing companies who specialise in their field. As a young PhD student, one quickly develops preferences for journals that yield useful search results, and the portals to those publishers soon become bookmarked. It goes beyond saying that one would migrate towards journals and publishers that senior faculty and colleagues recommend. By sheer scale, the larger publishers of journals and books in each area will find their way onto the radar.

The behemoths in this industry have a wonderful legacy. Sheer nostalgia. How many industries have incumbents, some of them market leaders, who date back 500 years? In 1852 William Taylor and Richard Francis started the company that still bears their name. That is young by industry standards. Although generally considered the smaller of the “Big Four” STEM publishers (Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Springer) and after 150 years and hundreds of acquisitions, their more-recently acquired Routledge imprint is claimed to be the largest global academic publisher within the humanities and social sciences. Springer, with over 2,700 journals, is evidently a name one cannot ignore.

Through the doors of Cambridge University Press (founded 1534) and Oxford University Press (founded 1478) have walked many of the finest minds with ideas for books that changed the world. Meanwhile, as they worked with the likes of Einstein, or later Hawking, across the Atlantic, the ‘youngster’ Princeton University Press  (1922) was collaborating with Theodore Roosevelt and other notable authors. Incidentally, Princeton’s best-selling book of all time, the English translation of The I-Ching did not require celebrity authors.

In this big league, competition remains fierce, and the operations are large with a presence in many countries. Ranking systems rate these publishing giants according to different metrics, and a number of scandals have followed as these metrics are often used to determine public funding. Regardless, as a researcher, you will be familiar with the prestigious journals the marquee publishers produce and need not be concerned with any of their internal industry dynamics. More important is to ask yourself whether you want to fall in line with thousands of other aspiring academic authors for a shot at your manuscript receiving due attention.


Stellar Mentions

Aside from the 800-pound gorillas with their gilded reputations, there are several publishers who have consistently earned the respect of their competitors and the academic community alike.

Established in 1984, and remaining fiercely independent from the dynamics that may drive towards commercial rather than content. They regularly tackle new ideas in the fields of international studies and comparative politics (all world regions), US politics, military history, and sociology and criminology. Their approach remains one of personalisation and a high level of access and contact with their academic community of authors. 

The name of Bristol-based Policy Press, crops up regularly among industry incumbents when asked whom they admire. With the stated goal of “publishing work that seeks to understand social problems, promote social change and inform policy and practice”, their core aim is to improve the day-to-day lives of people who need it most. One could think of them as ‘activist-publishers’ for their passionate commitment to publishing for a purpose. 

In the fields of cultural studies and the social sciences, history, philosophy, and in cultural management, is a highly respected European independent journal that publishes in English and German. Their portfolio includes an elaborate list of books and journals that have become a natural home for innovative and critical research. The book design is always a joy to behold, and they put in the extra effort, as they say, “out of respect for our authors.” 

Finally, as deserving for inclusion on any list of big league publishers, the legacy of transatlantic publishing legend Steven Kennedy at Palgrace McMillan makes it impossible not to be included here among the most accessible and innovative as an industry force. For anyone in the social science and humanities, Palgrave-McMillan, now part of Springer Nature, needs no introduction. The founder of our recommended hero-publishing house above, Barbara Budrich, speaks with the highest reverence of what she has learned from Kennedy during his tenure at this firm.



Finding the right publisher for your academic journey may seem like a daunting process. The one encouraging thing to count on is that wherever you turn, you will find professionals with the same love you have for the written word and the world of ideas. There are good people and amazing products aplenty in this industry. That is what 500 years can shape.

If you’re looking for a publishing partner, look no further than Verlag Barbara Budrich, we’d love for you to get in touch with us to see how we can help you. Simply click 👉 here to get in touch with us.


Image: / Jonas Renner