BEA: DoJ 'incompetent', says Sargent

BEA: DoJ 'incompetent', says Sargent

Something positively energetic was in New York's muggy air yesterday (29th May) when Book Expo America began, a day before the main show floor opened, with a packed multi-conference schedule organised by the American Booksellers Association, BEA itself, International Digital Publishing Forum and Publishers Launch.

One highlight: Macmillan c.e.o. John Sargent on "Publishing, Bookselling and the Whole Damn Thing" in conversation with outgoing ABA president Becky Anderson. Although he couldn't speak as freely as he has previously, the fact that Sargent chose to open a public dialogue at all, at a time when Department of Justice actions have effectively tried to muzzle publishers' ability to share thoughts, was regarded as a brave and positive move, even if listeners wished he had gone further or that Anderson's questions had been harder-hitting.

"The DoJ came in and made a decision that they would carry Amazon's water . . . the senior guys, including [Attorney General Eric] Holder made the decision . . . and that was just incompetent," were a few of Sargent's bon mots on the subject of agency litigation.

A "future" panel moderated by Ingram c.e.o. John Ingram featured Open Road founder Jane Friedman, RH children's head Barbara Marcus, newly elevated Hachette c.e.o. Michael Pietsch, and incoming ABA president Steve Bercu.

"We shouldn't try to dabble in apps, we should concentrate on being great children's publishers," Marcus declared in the "lessons learned" segment.

"People are no longer quite as anxious, they're saying, yes, there's a path forward, let's go,"  Pietsch declared.

Goodreads founder Otis Chandler spoke at IDPF on what has happened in the two months since he announced the sale of his company to Amazon: two million more members added, and Amazon more excited than ever about tapping into the 45% of Goodreads members outside the US.

At Publishers Launch, Providence Equity investment adviser Brian Napack analysed "leakage" out of the publishing value chain, while also parsing the RH-Penguin merger, the John Wiley asset sale, and changes at Hyperion and HarperCollins. Napack said: "Disney shouldn't have been in the trade publishing business, but it was a nice experiment; let's see what Mr Murdoch does‚ after the company is separated [into two] on June 28th."