Penguin and Random House’s respective parent companies have decided to merge them – if this is anything like Transformers it should have a cool theme song and special effects. The new company is going to be called Penguin Random House. I started wondering about the implications of this merger for both readers and the book industry as a whole. I can’t claim any expertise in this area so this is just what has been swirling around in my head.
What effect will there be on prices?
According to the Hollywood Reporter Penguin Random House will control approximately 30% of the trade book industry. Call me cynical but Penguin Random House was probably downplaying their assets. This gives them a substantial amount of power to either undercut their competitors or to jack up prices to increase their profits. Consumers are savvy enough to seek out the cheapest prices so if Penguin Random House set up their own digital delivery service with books priced say 10% cheaper than Amazon, I suspect people would start shopping through them. They now have the strength to reduce Amazon’s stranglehold on the digital book market, if they choose.
Will this cause a domino effect?
Other publishing houses, particularly the midrange ones must be looking at this merger with suspicion. I wouldn’t be surprised if some decided to merge in order to keep up with this giant. Imagine if you are a smaller publisher trying to get your books into a bookstore only to be told that because they do so much business with one company, your stuff is going to be relegated to the back corner. Ticking off a huge company would be business suicide and bookstores simply can’t afford to do that.
Will a larger company lead to less innovation?
The risk with increased size is greater standardisation and the public may lose out.
Will we get more books published?
With the two companies combined they have one heck of a catalogue that they can access. They may not have secured digital rights for the older ones or the rights to publish in certain regions but aggressively pursuing this could be a win for readers, especially if the books they want are out of print. Quantity does not always lead to quality though so it will be interesting to see how they approach it.
What’s up with the logo?
I don’t know about you but I really wanted a picture of a house with a little penguin sign on top. I could even handle a house with a penguin inside waving at me. This whole logo side by side bizzo does not appeal to my sense of whimsy.