Grolier is one of the largest U.S. publishers of general encyclopedias, including The Book of Knowledge (1910), The New Book of Knowledge (1966), The New Book of Popular Science (1972), Encyclopedia Americana (1945), Academic American Encyclopedia (1980), and numerous incarnations of a CD-ROM encyclopedia (1986–2003).
Grolier is an educational publishing company known for its presence in school libraries. It has a strong presence among parents of children under six years old, the target of Grolier's direct mail-to-the-home business.
In June 2000 Grolier became part of Scholastic Corporation, which now maintains Grolier Online.
Walter M. Jackson (1863–1923) was the founder of encyclopedia publisher Grolier, Inc., and he was the partner of Horace Everett Hooper in publishing the 10th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica and in developing its 11th edition. He split with Hooper in 1908-1909 in a nasty legal fight after failing to wrest control of the Britannica from Hooper.
Jackson had founded the Grolier Society, which specialized in making extra-fine editions of classics and rare literature. The Society was named after the Grolier Club, which had been founded in 1884 to advance the arts involved in making books and which was named after a well-known French bibliophile, Jean Grolier de Servières.
After the split with Hooper he acquired the rights to publish the British The Children's Encyclopædia under the name The Book of Knowledge.
Grolier, Inc. subsequently became a large publisher of general encyclopaedias, including The Book of Knowledge (1910), The New Book of Knowledge (1966), the Encyclopedia Americana (1945), the Academic American Encyclopedia (1980), The New Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia (1985 CD-ROM), and the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia (1995).
Grolier had a US$100 million international business, primarily located in the UK, Canada and Asia. It had 1999 revenues of $450 million and earnings of approximately $45 million, with $4.5 million in Internet revenues.
By the late 1970s, Grolier has moved its operations to Danbury, Connecticut. In 1988 Grolier was purchased by the French media company Hachette, which owned a well-known French-language encyclopedia, the Hachette Encyclopedia. Hachette was later absorbed by the French conglomerate the Lagardère Group. In 1996, Grolier acquired the Chicago-based Children's Press.
Grolier was then purchased by Scholastic for US$400 million in 2000. The new owners projected a 30% increase in operating income, although historically Grolier had experienced earnings of 7% to 8% on income.
Staff reductions as a means of controlling costs followed soon thereafter, even while an effort was made to augment the sales force. Cuts occurred every year between 2000 and 2007, leaving a much-depleted work force to carry out the duties of maintaining a large encyclopedia database. Scholastic, which specializes in works for the K-8 market (Kindergarten-to-8th grade), has sought to position the Encyclopedia Americana as a reference resource for schools. It remains to be seen whether that strategy, applied to a venerable upper-level (even adult-level) publication, will work in the long run.
The name Grolier is retained as the Scholastic website Grolier Online. The company exists as Grolier Incorporated.