The year of the mergers

Penguin Random House

(Image taken from Aziz Isham, The House of Penguin: Notes on a Publishing Apocalypse)

Penguin Random House

The Bookseller released an article last week reporting how Australia has approved the Random House Penguin merger which was announced in October last year. It has been reported that companies Pearson and Bertelsmann will own approx. half each; the former owning 47% of shares and the latter owning 53%. Of course this means that both companies’ publishing firms across the world will be involved in the merger, including offices in the USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, China and Spain.

Waterstones and University of Derby

Not only have two of the publishing worlds’ ‘big six’ has joined forces, but other companies in the publishing sector are also coming together. Book retailer Waterstones have of course done deals with e-retailer Amazon in the past in which they have agreed to sell Amazon’s Kindle in their stores. More recently, however, Waterstones has announced its agreement with the University of Derby to launch the first professional qualification in bookselling, which will be the equivalent of a first year in an undergraduate degree.

Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh

The two literary agencies announced earlier in February that they would be joining together to ‘extend their authors’ reach in the new publishing multiverse. Like with the Penguin Random House merger, Curtis Brown has bought a 50% stake in Conville & Walsh. It is not the first time the agencies have worked together though; both have formed alliance on film projects in the past for M L Stedman and S J Watson to name a few.

Predictions for 2013:

Whilst obviously, the Penguin and Random House merger was a big deal in the trade publishing world, however, the end of January saw the prediction that consolidation of academic publishing houses will become more common this year, particularly with the mass rise in digital sales, as well as developments in Open Access. George Lossius, CEO of Publishing Technology told The Bookseller how consolidation is ‘not the sole domain of the trade’ although the consolidation of small publishers into large publishers recently means that the prediction for this to happen in 2013 is more likely.

Other developments predicted is the mass surge in Open Access publishing and the rise in purchasing digital academic textbooks for Universities around the world. Cambridge University Press Chief Executive, Peter Phillips, said that digital educational services were massive, yet the demand for print textbooks and Print On Demand was still popular and was still a growing part of academic publishing, particularly in the Far East and Latin America.

Personally, I think that mergers between publishing houses will continue to change the industry. With the changes in the digital revolution in publishing, large (and small) publishing firms have joined forces to try to enhance the services which they are already providing. In addition, with the rise of giant Amazon, publishing houses should stick together. It is thought that Amazon controls 80-90% of the market, as reported by Aziz Isham, The American Reader (as above). With Amazon controlling such a large part of the market, there are obviously fears that the future of publishing will not extend much further than Amazon. Personally, whilst I do and have used Amazon in the past, I think it is important for publishing houses to still exist! It would be a shame for years of companies’ hard work to be over-taken by Amazon and in addition, I do like to have that choice of being able to purchase my books direct from the publisher – again another service which is increasingly on the rise…

As I have summarised in this post, mergers are affecting ALL aspects of the industry: trade, academic, literary agents and retailers! I guess the interesting game now is, one publishing house at a time, to guess who will be the next merger…?

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About ambergunn

English Language and Literature graduate and MA Publishing graduate from Anglia Ruskin University. Production Editor at a STM journal publisher in London. Tea lover, bookworm and metaphor appreciator. View all posts by ambergunn

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