Kodansha was started by Seiji Noma in 1909 as a spin-off of the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai (Greater Japan Oratorical Society). Its first publication was the literary magazine Yūben. The name Kodansha (taken from Kōdan Club, a now defunct magazine published by the company) was first used in 1911 when the publisher formally merged with the Dai-Nippon Yūbenkai. The company's current legal name has been in use since 1958. Its motto is "Omoshirokute tame ni naru" (To be interesting and beneficial).

The company also owns the Otowa Group, which manages subsidiary companies such as King Records and Kobunsha, and publishes Nikkan Gendai, a daily tabloid. It also has close ties with The Walt Disney Company, and is an official sponsor of Tokyo Disneyland.

Kodansha was long considered the largest publisher in Japan, and at one point yearly revenues were over 200 billion JPY.

However, due to the recent Japanese recession and accompanying downturn in the publishing industry, revenues have been dropping, and the company is now rivalled by Shogakukan. Kodansha also sponsors the prestigious Kodansha Manga Award, which has run in its current form since 1977 (under other names since 1960).

The company is a stockholder in various broadcasters across Japan, and is believed to hold around 20% of the TBS Group's stock. It also holds stock in Nippon Cultural Broadcasting, along with Kobunsha. In the recent Nippon Broadcasting System takeover war between Livedoor and Fuji TV, Kodansha supported Fuji TV by selling their stock to them.

Key company developments in 2013

After seeing a continuous decline in both turnover (from 144.3 billion JPY in 2007 to 117.8 billion JPY in 2012) and profits, Kodansha has reported for 2013 a slight growth in revenues, and a doubling of profitability, however a detailed annual report is not available.

Ownership, mergers & acquisition, internal organization
Kondansha is working to expand international rights and e-book sales.

After closing Kodansha International, the company started an English-language publication program with Kodansha USA in fall 2012, beginning with the Manga classic The Spirit of Aikido.

In Spring 2012, Kodansha launched a monthly Manga magazine in China in a partnership with the Guangxi Publishing & Media Group Co. and has announced plans to start selling comic books and character goods as well as create movies for the Chinese market.

Kodansha opened Kodansha USA in 2009 to build a direct access to the American manga market. The first titles included Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo and the metaphysical sci-fi police thriller Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune. Kodansha Comics manga trade paperbacks will be distributed by Random House, with whom Kodansha has had a broad alliance relationship since 2003.

Kodansha Europe is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Kodansha publishing group. Set up in 1990, one of Kodansha Europe’s principle roles has been the import and sale of Kodansha’s books in English on Japanese culture. Two more publishers were added in 2011: HPH Publishing (South Africa); and Niyogi Books, with a discerning list that specializes in Indian culture.

Kodansha teamed up with with Crunchyroll, an online platform for legally streaming anime and manga content, in fall 2013. The company plans to digitally distribute 12 manga titles in English and release titles worldwide in tandem with publication in Japan.

By late 2012, revenues from e-books accounted for a modest 2.7 billion JPY (of total revenues of 120 billion JPY).

Kodansha joined a Japanese industry consortium in early 2012 to digitize 1 million of its printed works. In spring 2012, Kodansha joined an agreement of 40 Japanese publishers with Amazon on e-book distribution.

Bestselling authors & titles
Dispite a challenging overall environment for book publishing in Japan, Kodansha has been successful with its bunko (light) novels.

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