Frontlist | Is Penguin Random House’s planned acquisition a master move?

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There are a number of opinions and perspectives in the context of S&S’s acquisition by PRH making the biggest publishing house of US bigger.

In the same context, Porter Anderson writes the following for Publishing Perspectives:

“Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House (PRH)—already the world’s largest publisher—has announced that PRH intends to purchase ViacomCBS’ Simon & Schuster for US$2.175 billion.Of course, industry response will quickly include speculation about how regulators will look at a question of the largest Big Five publishers buying another Big Five house.”

Anderson provides additional context as he shares quotes from Jonathan Karp (president and CEO of Simon & Schuster), Markus Dohle (CEO of Penguin Random House), the Authors Guild, and the Association of Canadian Publishers.

John Maher shares other industry reactions for Publishers Weekly, including from Allison Hill (CEO of the American Booksellers Association) and the Association of American Literary Agents.

Nate Hoffelder opines at The Digital Reader:

“The thing about the Big 5 is that they aren’t really that big. There are many larger or comparable-sized publishing companies, including US publishers such as Scholastic and HMH. Also, all of the remaining ‘Big 5’ are actually part of larger international publishing conglomerates. …

The Big 5 (now the Big 4) are run as parts of a larger whole, and referring to them in terms of their relative size in the US market is misleading at best.

Or at least, it is misleading to those outside the industry. If you are in the book publishing industry you’re going to notice a change in everything from reduced competition for new books to lower fees paid to service providers to the size of [booths] at book fairs (publisher booths have been getting smaller for years now, and this will probably accelerate the trend).”

The Atlantic’s “The Monster Publishing Merger Is About Amazon,” by Franklin Foer, states:

“How big would the combined company be? By one estimate, it might publish a third of all books in the U.S. This deal is so expansive that it’s hard to find an author to write about it who isn’t somehow implicated. …On paper, this merger is deplorable and should be blocked. As book publishing consolidates, the author tends to lose—and, therefore, so does the life of the mind. With diminished competition to sign writers, the size of advances is likely to shrink, making it harder for authors to justify the time required to produce a lengthy work. … Publishers will grow hesitant to take risks on new authors and new ideas. …

The deal is transpiring in a larger context—and that context is Amazon. … If it’s correct to worry about a merged company that publishes perhaps 33 percent of new books, then surely it’s correct to worry more about the fact that Amazon now sells 49 percent of them.

In the face of Amazon’s dominance, book publishers have huddled together in search of safety. Amazon’s size gives it terrifying leverage over the industry. Amazon, with its heavily visited home page, its emails to consumers, and its control of the search box on its site, has the power to make or break a title. To counter Amazon, publishers have sought to increase their bargaining power. They believe that they can match Amazon’s size only by growing their own.”



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