UTC-3.5 to -8; Summer UTC -2.5 to - 7
Area (sq. miles)
$2.027 trillion (PPP)
There is no ministry or department of education at the federal level.
Departments of Education across Canada Canadian Heritage is the department of the Government of Canada with responsibility for policies and programmes regarding the arts, culture, media, communications networks, official languages, status of women, sports, and multiculturalism.
5% for books and 0% ebooks
Canada Council for the Arts Abroad Translation programme funding the translation of Canadian literary works or dramatic works for international presentation or publication.
This guide is for those wishing to access the market from the UK, either for the first time or because they wish to review their existing mode of access. It is also a source of information for those who seek to deepen their understanding of the market and how it operates. Because of its main purpose, a large part of the report’s value lies in the appendices, which principally gather together information about the all-important organisations and contacts who may provide an entry-point. This information can be otherwise difficult both to obtain and to interpret.
The report should be taken in close conjunction with its sister-report on the book markets of the United States of America. Those who have dealt with the Canadian publishing and bookselling market know that it is culturally and structurally distinct from that of the USA, and proudly so, reflecting as it does Canada’s different historical development. In terms of territorial rights Canada has the frequently-exercised capacity to separate itself from its larger neighbour. As well as Canadian associate companies of the major international publishers and publishing groups, there is to be found an especially rich and varied SME publishing sector representing a remarkable range of publishing areas across most of Canada’s provinces, from feminist and university presses to publishers of fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, local history and geography, and other local interest. Together they make up a texture that expresses the breadth and depth not only of Canadian national culture but also of the different cultures of the country’s provinces.
The Department of Canadian Heritage (PCH, https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage.html) recognises the part played by publishing in the cultural life of the country and the contribution it makes to the creative industries sector, which in turn represents a very significant bloc in the economy and employment. In the spirit of that recognition, a range of bodies offer publishers grants and subsidies, and some of the smaller publishers are not-for-profit organisations.
In 2021, PCH together with Livres Canada Books (LCB, https://www.livrescanadabooks.com) drove a lively initiative under the aegis of the Frankfurt Book Fair’s Guest of Honour programme, encouraging and assisting the SME publishing sector in particular, both anglophone and francophone, to engage with publishing around the world beneath Canada’s Guest of Honour banner. The group of publishers involved showed excitement and enthusiasm at the prospect and then the reality of engaging with the international publishing community, and of adding a new, broadening dimension to their activities. Although LCB’s mission is to aid Canadian publishers to export, the nature of publishing relationships very often involves commercial exchange and reciprocity, so that sellers become buyers and vice versa. Thus it can be expected that these new connections will gradually lead to increased options for rights sales into the Canadian market.
Notwithstanding this very distinct character of the Canadian book industry, geographical, linguistic and economic factors mean that the two markets have a particularly close cross-border relationship: English-language territorial rights for the two countries are often purchased and exercised together, mostly from the USA, and similarly US distributors will commonly cover both countries. There are also distributors in Canada focused on distribution into the USA. Many of the observations in the report on the USA will also apply to Canada, and any company considering market access to the one should also consider the other and take a strategic approach to North America as a whole, even if access to the two markets is to be achieved through separate channels.
Hence, we have chosen not to repeat here the material in the USA report which also applies to Canada, particularly when it comes to market access. But in our section here on market access observations will be found on the strategic decisions to be made.
Readers should also consult these reports alongside further information within the Export Toolkit website, which offers extensive information and advice on assessing opportunities for market access, and preparing to take such opportunities, as well as on the wider practice of doing business around the world.
The Canadian book market has long held a special place in the perception (and indeed affection) of UK publishers, for historical, political and cultural reasons. Its status as a member of the Commonwealth continues to create ties which mean that the profile of what finds a ready market in Canada in consumer publishing terms can in certain important elements be distinct from that of the range of titles that travel well into the USA; though of course there is very considerable overlap.
Canada’s unusual status within the sales and exploitation of territorial rights has an important bearing on its performance as a market: this is set out fully in the relevant section below.
The largest single characteristic distinguishing the Canadian market from that of the USA is that it includes a significant francophone component, backed by the status of French as an official language alongside English. In 2018 (see note on source under Core Statistics below) the francophone market represented 21% of total market sales at retail. Publishing also takes place in nine indigenous languages or language groups, led by five main publishing houses. Indigenous subjects and stories are playing an increasing part in publishing output in English and French, reflecting a growing cultural focus.
As in the USA and the UK, the Canadian consumer book industry overall was a beneficiary of the 2020-2021 global pandemic, as confinement led to increased leisure reading.
Core statistics and facts
Population (2020) 38m (https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/canada-population/)
Estimated total size of book market 2018: C$ 2.0 bn at retail (source, with due acknowledgement: Canada Singular Plurality, Singulier Pluriel, an overview compiled by FBM 2020, a body assembled to manage and promote Canada’s participation as Guest of Honour (GOH) in the Frankfurt Book Fair 2020. Sadly, the pandemic of 2020-2021 resulted in the cancellation of the fair as a physical event, and Canada’s GOH participation was postponed to 2021, when it went ahead in lively fashion in the context of a hybrid in-person/online fair with greatly reduced personal attendance, predominantly from continental Europe; though those who did attend overwhelmingly reported positively on the experience, including those visiting from Canada under the GOH aegis. The overview is strongly qualitative as well as quantitative, and we recommend it as required reading for readers of the present report. It can be found amongst the resources listed at this link: https://canadafbm2021.com/industry-resources/)
These retail sales exclude the educational market and other sales which do not pass-through retail channels. It should be further noted that some institutions, particularly in the tertiary education sector, purchase from vendors in the USA, and that therefore these sales will not appear in Canada’s industry figures.
While the copyright regime in Canada has mostly been in line with those of the UK and USA, educational publishers should note a change in that sector which has had a seriously adverse effect on educational publishers in Canada, and on the sales and development of educational product. Copyright exceptions were widened by the Copyright Modernization Act 2012 to include educational use, with devastating market consequences. As things stand, the present report cannot encourage educational publishers from overseas to seek a market in Canada. For a detailed account see https://publishingperspectives.com/2021/12/the-canadian-copyright-crisis-at-years-end-a-decades-struggle-covid19/ It is noteworthy that the International Publishers Association (IPA) based in Geneva and dating from 1896, whose members are Publishers Associations around the world, and whose twin pillars are Copyright and Freedom to Publish, has visited Canada to lend its voice to the campaign against the Act. Should this damaging situation be remedied, modes of market access will align with those for the US market. There are 14,800 public sector schools in Canada, comprising 10,100 elementary schools, 2,600 secondary schools, and 2,100 mixed elementary schools. The enrolment figure is >5.7m. Source and further information: Council of Ministers of Education, Canada https://www.cmec.ca/en/
Canada is rightly proud of its university sector, which comprises 96 public universities and a smaller range of private universities, bringing the total to over 100. Ten of those universities are listed amongst the world’s top 250. There is also an extensive college and vocational school sector, comprising 127 colleges, institutes and polytechnics. Those that teach in French are mostly located in Quebec province, and some universities are bilingual. The information about this sector and market access to it (including its libraries) contained in our sister-report on the USA applies in large measure to Canada too. Further information on the tertiary education sector in Canada can be found here: https://www.educanada.ca/programs-programmes/university-universite.aspx?lang=eng
There are 3500 public libraries in Canada, a network sharing some of the same aims and ideals as its counterpart in the USA. The main sector association is the Canadian Library Association, whose site contains further information on membership, activities and events: https://cla.ca
The bookselling scene in Canada has seen a similarly high level of consolidation in bricks-and-mortar chain booksellers to those observed in the UK and USA in the 20+ years since the appearance and expansion of amazon. amazon has a dedicated Canadian site and operation whose market-leading shares are similar to those in the UK and USA. The leading nationwide chain is Indigo/Chapters with 88 superstores, and 86 smaller-format stores under the banners of Coles and Indigospirit. There are 275+ independent bookstores across Canada. See Appendix B for a range of sources of detailed retailer information, including BookNet Canada’s 2020 survey of the state of independent bookselling in Canada. (NB: The 958 bookstores stated in the FBM report referenced above include all retailers who include books in their offering, as opposed to stores whose main product line is books.)
Standing in top-15 league table of UK exports (print and digital)
Source: PA Publishing Yearbook 2020 (available to PA members)
(NB: Three factors must be taken into consideration when considering these figures in a comparative light: first, that over 20% of sales made in Canada through retail channels are of French-language publications; secondly, that the limited range of titles in which UK trade publishers have rights to the Canadian territory greatly reduces the potential market compared with, say, those of Australia or New Zealand; and thirdly, that a not inconsiderable proportion of UK publishers’ sales to the USA are made to distributors who supply Canada as well as the USA; and therefore an element of what appear as sales to the USA are in fact sales to the Canadian market. (This phenomenon also affects New Zealand, where publishers report as Australian sales that are in fact sold on into New Zealand.) Taking into account these factors which depress Canada’s apparent position in these tables, we can upwardly adjust our assessment of its ranking).
Fiction: 5th after Australia, USA, Germany and Ireland
Non-fiction and reference: 15th
School education: like USA not in top 15 countries (specific curricular requirements amongst other factors mean there are barriers to market access, along with the seriously damaging impact of changes to copyright in the 2012 Act).
ELT: like USA not in top 15 countries (naturally the top countries for ELT exports are second- or third-language markets)
Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH): 13th (29% print, 71% digital)
Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM): 11th (100% digital as per PA statistics)
Journals: 1st (North America region including USA, which takes greatly the higher share; it is reasonable to suppose that the proportion each represents of the whole is commensurate with the two countries’ relative positions in the book-category tables listed above. Together USA and Canada are + 41% on the second region, Europe)
Territorial rights status of the Canadian market’s consumer adult and children’s categories
Readers are referred in the first place to what appears under the equivalent heading in our sister-report on the USA. Much of the background material applies also to Canada, though it remains the case that UK publishers secure Canadian rights even to certain top-tier titles.
To expand here on the penultimate paragraph of that US section: Canada’s historical ties of a cultural and political nature to the UK frequently resulted in the Canadian territory being separated in territorial rights terms from the USA; and the longer-established UK trade publishers would have an associate operation in Canada (as well as in the USA – mostly New York), dedicated to a programme of local publishing as well as the distribution into the market of lists originating from the UK. As noted above in relation to the PA Yearbook statistics, the influence of shifting cultural, political, economic and logistical factors has steadily decreased the proportion of trade titles to which the UK publisher holds Canadian rights. Increasingly Canadian rights to international publishing properties are sold alongside those to the USA, and the US publishers supply the Canadian market either through their own associate companies in Canada or through a third-party distributor.
In certain cases, US and Canadian rights are sold separately, and customers purchase from the respective rights-holding publishers in the two territories: bibliographic metadata is set up on publishers’ systems to intercept orders for the other territory and refer them to the rights-holder. Although those metadata will also be present in the wider industry’s bibliographic databases, and the territorial restrictions will be implemented by the more prominent players, cross-border supply can nevertheless take place and cause complications.
Readers are referred to the information on access to the USA market in our sister-report. The material and observations made there, including those on digital publications, apply almost entirely to the Canadian market too. In that context, exporters are faced with the strategic decision as to whether to appoint a separate distributor in each of Canada and the USA. Academic publishers who are not selling direct access to their own platforms may choose to work non-exclusively with a range of vendors in both the print and digital arenas.
The larger, longer-established trade publishers have taken the view that a Canadian distributor is closer to the market, bringing better understanding and stronger connections. For those with their own associate companies in Canada the decision makes itself. But publishers in the tiers below have taken the same view, and there are independent distributors to consider (see Appendix A). That said, the US distributors who also cover Canada have in many cases been doing so for years and have built up considerable market knowledge and connections. A consideration for SME publishers is their own resource, and whether they wish to take on the additional administration of supporting an additional distributor.
Supply to the academic market, and in particular libraries, through the vendors who serve that sector in both the print and the digital arenas, is closely integrated with that to the US counterpart. A salient fact to take into consideration is that the overwhelming proportion of SSH book exports from UK, and all STM book exports, are digital (see PA statistics above). See Appendix A for distributors and wholesalers.
Readers are referred to the information and observations above regarding access to the severely damaged educational market in Canada.
Canada has long been and remains in the top league of export markets for UK publishers of trade and academic books, especially when account is taken of its unique trade publishing rights status, and the fact that UK export statistics record as ‘US’ a proportion of sales made to Canada.
Because of its close links to the USA, and the very similar and often aligned patterns of market access, exporters need to consider the two markets alongside each other when determining representation and distribution arrangements; though that is not to say that a single arrangement covering both markets will always be best: it should be borne in mind by trade publishers that Canada’s distinctive history and culture are reflected in a varied market character that differs from that of the United States. Publishers looking to export should evaluate their options bearing in mind the best fit of list, market and distributor, along with the resource they can make available to offer the best support possible to their chosen partner(s).