The company was founded by Frederick Leypoldt, a German immigrant who worked as a bookseller and recognized the need for good bibliographic information to make the book business more efficient. He established the monthly Literary Bulletin, his first periodical, in 1868. In 1870 Leypoldt issued the first edition of his Annual American Catalogue, the forerunner for Books In Print. In 1872 he published the first issue of Publishers Weekly, in 1873 the first Publishers' Uniform Trade-List Annual (later the Publishers Trade List Annual), and in 1876 the first issue of Library Journal. In 1878 Leypoldt's company was acquired by Richard Rogers Bowker. Leypoldt and Bowker also founded two influential standard book-industry references: Literary Marketplace and Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.
Books In Print lists nearly all books that are currently available in English and in the United States from major publishers. A resource for bookstores, libraries, and publishers, it is available in a print version, but is most often accessed electronically. Books in Print listings are several million, a number that is only exceeded by Amazon.
The Library and Book Trade Almanac (formerly The Bowker Annual) is a resource for librarians, publishers, and booksellers which provides reviews of "key trends, events, and developments" in the industry; statistics on book prices, numbers of books published, library expenditures, and average salaries; explanations of new legislation and changes in funding programs; and other information.
Bowker is the United States provider of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), a code for identifying commercial books devised by Gordon Foster in 1967. An ISBN is currently placed on a book to uniquely identify it. ISBNs are available one at a time and in blocks up to 1000 for a set fee. ISBNs may be purchased and maintained at Bowker's Identifiers website, My Identifiers.