Publishers Weekly, now celebrating its 150th anniversary, is familiarly known in the book world as PW and “the bible of the book business.” Focused on the international book publishing business, it is now a multimedia news platform with full horizontal coverage of book publishing beginning with the author-as-creator to publisher, printer, and distributor to the end consumer. Its varied products are targeted at publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary agents, authors, book lovers, and the media. It offers feature articles and news on all aspects of the book business, bestsellers lists in a number of categories, and industry statistics, but its best-known service is prepublication book reviews, of which it publishes nearly 9,000 per year.
The magazine was born in 1872 as The Weekly Trade Circular and in 1873 renamed The Publishers’ Weekly (the article and the apostrophe were later dropped), a collective catalog where publishers pooled their resources to create one common presentation of new books, issued each week. The aim was to keep booksellers and librarians informed of forthcoming titles, and an array of features and articles were added as years went by. The original creator of the magazine, and its first editor, was the German-born Frederick Leypoldt, a passionate bibliographer—so passionate and hardworking that he died prematurely, at the age of 49, in 1884. An early colleague in the enterprise was Richard Rogers Bowker, a literary journalist and also a keen bibliographer, who went on to create the R. R. Bowker Company. Bowker ultimately became the owner of PW, and later began to publish the massive annual Books in Print volumes and assign the International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) given to every published book. Another key player in PW’s history, who joined the magazine in 1918 and was active with it for over 40 years, was Frederic G. Melcher, a polymath who served as secretary of the American Booksellers Association, helped create the National Association of Publishers, and launched such notable book awards as the Newbery Medal and Caldecott Medal for children’s books and the Carey-Thomas Awards for distinguished publishing. He also created Children’s Book Week and was responsible for the early extensive coverage of children’s books that has remained a PW tradition. For the 150th anniversary, PW plans to relaunch the Carey-Thomas Awards in late 2022.