Mergers and acquisitions in the book trade

Penguin Books Random House

Penguin Books Random House

Random House and Penguin are planning a £2.4 billion merger. Described by so-called media analyst Theresa Wise on a BBC business programme as a a pretty good deal. Anything but, it is a bad for writers, bad for readers and must be stopped.

The merger would create a publishing conglomerate that would control 40% of the book trade in the US. In the UK the group would control 25% of the book market. Worldwide 25% of the English language market.

Murdoch has tried to buy Penguin, to merge with HarperCollins.

In Brazil, Amazon are looking to buy the e-book business of book chain Saraiva which is trying to sell its online business.

It is not good news when huge global corporations control the book business and turn books into a commodity.

We have seen this with the music business, music reduced to a commodity.

Now we are seeing it in publishing, the search for the latest me-too blockbuster. We saw it with me-too Da Vinci Codes, we saw it with every Scandinavian writer described as the next Stieg Larsson. Now we are seeing it with clones of 50 Shades of Crap.

Publishers are destroying our independent bookshops. In a space of five years we have lost a quarter of our independent bookshops.

Waterstone’s is able to offer substantial discounts on best-sellers, because they in turn get substantial discounts from the publishers, discounts which are not available to small independent bookshops.

Last winter, Jamie Oliver had out a new cook book, cover price £30. It was in supermarket chain Sainsbury’s at £9-99, half price in Waterstone’s. His latest cook book 15 Minute Meals, cover price £26, WH Smith £7-99 if you make other purchases.

J K Rowling has a new novel, £20 cover price, half price in supermarket chain Morrisons, £9 from Amazon.

Amazon dominates the e-book business. The books have a propriety format, you do not own them, you rent them. At any time, Amazon without rhyme nor reason can wipe all the books off your Kindle, block your account, and give you no explanation.

There is a need for an open source format for e-books that all devices and platforms can read. Publishers and authors can then supply direct.

There is a need for a site like bandcamp for musicians where authors can upload their works, readers can then read on-line, share or download.

The Random House Merger must be stopped. There is a need for an investigation, not only into this merger, but also the predatory pricing and other dodgy practices.

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