Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hachette Swallows Up Largest Indie Publisher

Consolidation in book publishing continues to take place.  Hachette Group, one of the nation’s Big 5 along with HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan Publishing, just announced it is buying the nation’s largest independent publisher, Perseus Book Group.  However, it didn’t agree to acquire the division that markets and distributes books for 600 small and education publishers, a unit that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Ingram is buying that.

The financial terms of the merger were not disclosed, so we can only speculate if it was a good deal for either company.  No doubt, the public loses out. So do writers.

It’s not that there’s anything particularly bad about the Big 5, but when so much of an industry is concentrated in just a handful of companies, it endangers competition.  Authors now have one less option to get published. Consumers have one less competitor and innovator to choose from.

If you add it up, the number of titles published annually by the big 5 is around 32,000 annually and yet that only represents less than a tenth of all books published by traditional publishers annually, according to Bowker. Additionally you have hundreds of thousands of other titles self-published annually. However, I think in terms of the number of bestsellers and revenue, the Big 5 take up the majority of the book market.

On the other hand, this move could create an opportunity for the independent book publishing world.  Other publishers can step it up to begin to fill the void and someone else becomes the largest indie publisher.  Maybe the new leaders will create, innovate, and market in a different if not better way and prove to be more favorable to the book world than before.

I guess it’s good news that Hachette saw a reason to acquire a publisher. If it thought the market was shrinking it wouldn’t add more debt and books to its roster. If it bought it to somehow kill off a competitor, then the move is not so good, but this is likely not the case.

Obviously with any takeover, jobs will be lost.  Redundances in shipping, accounting, legal, sales, and other areas will lead to downsizing.  Perhaps that personnel will catch on with other expanding publishers or it will connect to form a new indie book publisher.

The next movement in book publishing will likely come in retail.  Amazon is rumored to be opening hundreds of stores.  Barnes & Noble sheds a few stores each year.  Independent stores have been growing the last few years.  Is it time for a new book chain to enter the market?  Will we eventually see stores opened by book publishers?  Will the print-on-demand publishing community open a few stores to showcase its wares?

There will be more consolidation in book publishing.  It’s been that way for decades.  Self-publishing continues to be popular and ebooks have leveled off to around 18-20% of the market.  People still read and buy books.  2016 will not be a year of crisis and could prove to be as profitable as 2015.  But expect more changes to come.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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