It publishes more than 1,000 journals, more than 800 books a year, reference works and electronic products covering business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. SAGE also owns and publishes under the imprints of Corwin Press (since 1990), CQ Press (since 2008), Learning Matters (since 2011), and Adam Matthew Digital (since 2012).
SAGE was founded in 1965 in New York City by Sara Miller (later Sara Miller McCune) with Macmillan Publishers executive George D. McCune as a mentor; the name of the company is an acronym formed from the first letters of their given names. SAGE relocated to Southern California in 1966, after Miller and McCune married; McCune left Macmillan to formally join the company at that time. Sara Miller McCune remained president for 18 years, shifting to board chairman in 1984 (and still retains the title of executive chairman). The couple continued to develop the company together until George McCune's death in 1990.
In 2008, SAGE along with two other companies sued Georgia State University for alleged copyright infringement due to faculty providing excerpts of materials to students.The case concluded in 2020 with the publishing companies losing.
In 2018, SAGE reported a mean 2017 gender pay gap of 13.1% for its UK workforce, while the median was 10.3%.
SAGE Publishing was a founding member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) when it was established in 2008. In November 2013, OASPA reviewed SAGE's membership after the Journal of International Medical Research accepted a false and intentionally flawed paper created and submitted by a reporter for the journal Science as part of a "sting" to test the effectiveness of the peer-review processes of open access journals(see Who's Afraid of Peer Review?). SAGE's membership was reinstated at the end of the six month review period following changes to the journal's editorial processes.