"... News Corporation is like an obnoxious rich boy with a history of bad behaviour that no girl wants to be seen in public with."The questions that follow are more important and interesting. What happens next to their competitors, and what are the implications for the small fry in this story -- authors, agents, bookshops and independent publishers? I have no doubt this takeover will trigger a wave of further takeover activity. Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins clearly has the will and capacity to swallow up one of its competitors, but News Corporation is like an obnoxious rich boy with a history of bad behaviour that no girl wants to be seen in public with. I suspect the only date it can get will be with Simon & Schuster. There are also geo-political complications: the huge French-based multinational Lagardere owns famous imprints in the UK and the US, such as Little, Brown, Hachette and Hodder & Stoughton, while the large German-based house von Holtzbrinck owns notable publishing companies worldwide, such as Macmillan, Henry Holt, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It's hard to imagine either company agreeing to be bought out by the other. My guess, then, is the Big Six will become the Big Four. For the rest of us, the results are even more speculative. For authors, there's likely to be less choice as the larger houses focus even more on the pursuit of blockbusters, and stop bidding against each other internally. It may mean advances will go up for highly commercial manuscripts, but they'd be likely to do so while they decline for mid-list books. If this is right, literary agents will see this as a mixed blessing. Bookshops might welcome having fewer publishers to deal with, but I suspect they'll have less bargaining power in their pursuit of marketing support. The large houses that remain may also be less worried about the further decline of physical bookshops. Independent publishers will also view these developments with some anxiety. It will make it even harder for them to acquire good books at reasonable prices, and will probably accelerate the trend towards global publishing. It may also make their dependence on large houses for sales and/or distribution facilities more fraught. This is a much bigger and more important subject than it might seem, as it is the key to the independents' business model -- and to the availability of their books. Big commercial books will always find a market, but all those other books we all need are only made available to readers by people who care about what they're doing. That needs personal dedication -- committed publishers, hand-selling booksellers, passionate reviewers and bloggers, and ultimately word-of-mouth recommendations. Anything that puts this ecology at risk puts our civilisation at risk, too. *This article was first published on the Scribe website
Despite renos, Penguin House can’t match Amazon McMansion
The merger of publishers Penguin and Random House will trigger more takeover activity. And the impact will trickle down to all aspects of the industry, writes Scribe publisher Henry Rosenbloom.