AK was founded in Stirling, Scotland by Ramsey Kanaan in 1987 as a small mail order outlet, named after his mother Ann Kanaan. The project soon expanded, venturing into independent book publishing, and AK Press also now has a branch in Oakland, California. Kanaan and several other members of AK Press left in 2007 to form a new radical publishing company PM Press. AK Press is organized as a workers' co-operative; the Press is owned by all members of the collective and works without bosses, with every member partaking in each function of the organization. It operates online through akpress.org in the United States, and through akuk.com in Europe. In the US, it manages a "Bookmobile" (which is not a physical automobile, but "an announcement, an opportunity") that sells books at various gatherings around the country (to protests, activist conferences, etc.). In the United Kingdom, AK Press manages stalls at similar events. Works published by AK Press include reprints of radical classics as well as original works; its book topics include anarchism,globalization, and animal rights, and are often difficult to find through mainstream outlets.
AK Press has released spoken word albums by figures such as Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Jello Biafra, Arundhati Roy and Mumia Abu-Jamal and music by artists including David Rovics and Utah Phillips.