It’s official: Penguin/Random House merger announced
I recently wrote about the possibility of Random House and Penguin, two of the world’s largest trade publishers, merging
Pearson (parent of Penguin) announced it today:
Unfortunately, they didn’t go with “Random Penguin” as a name, but with “Penguin Random House”.
This is truly significant news, and probably a relief to some Penguin authors. Another suitor for the “bird” was Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In this
authors expressed their concerns, including the possible editorial policy at Penguin if News Corp’s offer was accepted.
One of my readers and regular commenters, Lady Galaxy, had a great line:
“I’’d much rather have a Random Penguin than a Fox in the Penguin House.”
Well, it appears that Penguin went with the smaller merge, but one that might be more aligned with their current vision.
I do think of the two publishers as being distinct “personalities”. My first association with Penguin is with well-produced versions of classic works. When I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, Penguin classics were often the assigned version of, say, Shakespeare.
They were also truly significant in launching paperbacks, which were, in a sense, the e-books of their day. They were cheaper, easier to carry, and so on.
For me, Random House is associated partially with quality science fiction. Their imprints include Bantam (publisher of the Doc Savage reprints), Del Rey, Spectra, and Lucas Books. Of course, they are much more than that.
Random House is solid, and not afraid to stand alone. When the five other largest US trade publishers adopted the Agency Model in 2010, Random House chose not to do that (although they eventually joined a year later).
My biggest negative with Random House was when they adopted a policy of blocking text-to-speech access in all of their e-books; they were the first big publisher to do that, and led the way for some others. They have since changed that policy.
If this deal is approved (and not in the least because of the size of the resulting company, that could be a bit of a challenge…I think it will be approved, though), the Big Six will become the Big Five.
For consumers, I don’t see an immediate negative impact. Book pricing, even without the Agency Model, doesn’t have a great deal of variation from one major publisher to another, I think. Penguin does have somewhat of a reputation for (ironically, in light of their origins) charging more, but I don’t think it’s massively and consistently true.
I would say this is more of a negative for authors, just because it reduces the number of competitors for their work. One could argue, though, that it also increases the ability of a tradpub to promote that same work. It might be that fewer authors are traditionally published…but that they get more services when they are.
Even without this merger, that would likely have been the trend, in my opinion.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.