Monday, November 5, 2012

Random Penguins

Last week a momentous moment occurred in the publishing world:  the announcement that Random House and Penguin would be merging, giving the resulting company 25% of the world's publishing market.  The companies both announced that the purpose of the merger would be to benefit from the synergies created, which as one writer pointed out, is Wall Street speak for layoffs, consolidation of divisions and the elimination of competing imprints and duplicate departments.  Fewer imprints and editors mean fewer places to pitch books, and agents and authors are already muttering about the negative impact of the merger.

In fact, it's hard to find anything very positive in the coverage of the merger.  Some writers are downright hostile, with one commenting that the move should be expected when these businesses are run by English majors wearing Daddy's work clothes.  I don't know if I'd go that far (or be that snarky), but I don't think the merger will prove to be good for authors.  One analyst (quoted in this week's edition of The Economist) says that the merger will mean many mid-list authors will be jettisoned, as the two publishers focus on their stable of best-selling authors and more spin-offs of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The new company, to be called Penguin Random House, has announced it will using the savings generated by the "synergy" to explore and expand their digital publishing options.  I read one article which raised an interesting point about how the companies might do this.  In the past, the German publishing company which owns Random House held a small stake in Barnes & Noble.  The writer suggested that we should keep our eyes peeled for a potential deal between PRH and B&N.  PRH could gain a foothold in the ereader business with the Nook, and B&N would get a shot of cash necessary to keep their brick and mortar stores open, a retail outlet which, of course, Amazon does not have.  This is better than a soap opera.


  1. I thought Random House already owned every publishing company in the world - except Simon & Schuster who still manage to hold their own. News to me that they are owned by Germans. Is Berkley Prime Crime part of this conglomerate now?

  2. I had been wondering what the merger meant -- I appreciate your sharing your thoughts. Disappointing. :/

  3. I googled Bertelsmann, the name of the German company which owns RH, to be sure I spelled it correctly and the first item that came up described the co. as a "global media conglomerate." That's scary right there. And BPC is an imprint of Penguin. India may have to seek other employment some day.