Publishing Consolidation in the Good Old Summertime

July 1, 2013

The world of ink-on-paper publishing no longer makes my heart race. When I was younger and the traditional publishing sector more robust, I did like the thrill of doing the dead-tree thing. I recall the aroma of just-printed annual reports, for example. I look back fondly on days spent at Case-Hoyt in Rochester, New York, where I watched the world’s largest pocket calendar being printed for a very, very wealthy client located in distant climes.

I read on the ABC news site a short item which seems to have originated from the Associated Press. You can dip into the original on the ABC Web site for a short time. The write up asserts that the Hachette Book Group is going to acquire Hyperion. What’s interesting is that Disney, the company which owns some darned interesting information companies, is willing to let content for old people go. Young person content remains in the seven dwarfs’ cabin along with Snow White I believe.

I heard that in the near future a couple of other giant publishing outfits are going to get hitched. Pearson, Bertelsmann, and Random House will doing one of those business gene splicing things. The resulting intellectual protein structure with binding hydrogen atoms will, I assume, lead to soaring revenues, larger profits, and better books and related knowledge outputs.

Smaller publishers may benefit from massive consolidation. I recently purchased a textbook on bioengineering from a company in Singapore which was unfamiliar to me. I was, however, familiar with the price — hundreds of dollars. I assume that high-cost, narrowly-focused print books will continue to sell in the low hundreds.

Will a roll up of niche smaller publishers follow the consolidation of North American and Western European publishing companies? Will new start up print publishing companies gain greater traction in niche markets?

Margins in publishing have been under pressure for years. The cost of paper is an issue. The potential for environmental backlash exists. Traditional books are selling for writing superstars. For less sparkly wordsmiths, sales are less robust.

With Amazon and Apple in the game, it is a fascinating times for traditional publishers. But my heart is beating normally. My hunch is that publishers’ senior management experience a bit of heart flutter when quarterly financials are prepared every 12 weeks.

It is summertime. Beach books sales should be warming in the sun.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2013

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