The company was originally an independent United Kingdom-based publisher that was established in 1944 by Alan Bott A few years later, it was bought out by a consortium of several different publishing houses, including Macmillan and Hodder & Stoughton, among others. It became wholly owned by Macmillan in 1987.
Pan specialized in publishing paperback fiction and, along with Penguin Books, was one of the first popular publishers of this format in the UK. A large number of popular authors saw their works given paperback release through Pan, such as Ian Fleming's James Bond series (Pan was the first UK publisher to issue paperback editions of these books), Leslie Charteris' The Saint, and Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise, as well as other authors such as Nigel Tranter, Jackie Collins, Dick Francis, and Scott Turow, to name a few. Pan also released paperback editions of works by classic authors such as Jane Austen.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Pan Books editions were noted for their colorful covers which have made many of them collectables (particularly the Fleming and Charteris novels).
Although some sources indicate that Pan stopped publishing works in the late 1980s, the official Pan Macmillan website indicates that Pan Books is still operational, publishing award-winning titles as recently as 2007.