Further publisher consolidation 'inevitable'

Further publisher consolidation 'inevitable'

Further major publisher consolidations will change the face of the industry in the next year, trade figures believe, as a report this week claimed HarperCollins owner News Corp had begun talks with CBS about acquiring Simon & Schuster.

The News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal reported that discussions between the two parties were "preliminary", with no deal imminent. Spokespeople for HC US and S&S US declined to comment.

A combined HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster group would make up 9.6% of the UK market, based on the companies' 2012 sales through Nielsen BookScan, compared with Penguin Random House’s 26.4%. HC/S&S would have its strongest market share in fiction (12.8%) and children’s (11.6%), with its non-fiction market share slightly lower at 8.5%. 

However, many in the industry see a more natural fit between Simon & Schuster, with its powerful US arm, and Hachette, strong in the UK but lacking the same heft in the US.

Industry talk was rife this week about potential pairings among the leading publishers, with a general consensus that further consolidation was inevitable given the forthcoming creation of Penguin Random House. One industry insider, who preferred to speak anonymously, claimed: "Within a year’s time there will be three major groups, not six." 

Another said: "Once the tectonic plates start to shift, everyone else has to shift too. None of these barons like to see their market share go down." A third commented of the Wall Street Journal report: "When these stories go public, developments often move quite quickly."

Further consolidation among literary agencies is also thought to be under discussion (see p20), as agents ponder the need for increased clout in a future when they may be dealing with fewer, larger publishing houses. However, Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander said she remained opposed to the prospect. "The bigger publishers get, the more important it is for there to be some agents who can play the long game and be with authors for their career, not just for a few books," she said.

Editor's blog: White Knights