Nourry: publishers need to put controls on pricing

Nourry: publishers need to put controls on pricing

Google is "even more aggressive" than Amazon when it comes to control over the pricing of content, the chief of Hachette Livre, Arnaud Nourry, has warned.

The chairman and c.e.o of the world’s second largest trade publisher said the search engine company was more dangerous than fellow American-based conglomerate Amazon because it gives information away for free.

Speaking on the subject of price controls over content at The Frankfurt Book Fair "CEO Talk" on 14th October, with trade journalists posing the questions, Nourry said the industry had to be vigilant over the pricing of digital books.

"We have learnt from the magazine, music and press industry that when you lose control of pricing your content you are basically on your way to death," he said. "As book publishers, we need to put some kind of control through contracts, on pricing... To some extent Google is even more aggressive in not charging for content than Amazon, because Amazon is a retailer.

"There is consensus among publishers in the UK and US that there should be some price control."

He added: "I am very happy with the (current) agency model."

He said the publisher had to learn "segment by segment, genre by genre" how to best price content for customers. "We need to learn and we are in the process of learning," he said, warning that getting the pricing right was "instrumental in the future of the industry".

Despite concerns over pricing, Nourry said it was the European Commission’s single digital market proposal which posed the biggest threat to the trade, insinuating that Google also stood to gain if the scheme is implemented.

"That [copyright] is a real concern," he said. "We can talk about Amazon and other retailers, Waterstones and WH Smith… but the biggest concern we have at the moment is what is going on at the European Commission and to create what they call a united digital market… Why Europe is attacking the only media and cultural industry where we are powerful (on a world stage) makes no sense."

He added: "Behind the scenes there is a major battle between the American companies and Europe. One of them will be the big winner if we weaken copyright."

The Hachette chief also told the audience under questioning from The Bookseller’s deputy editor Benedicte Page that to please shareholders, the company would have to grow through medium-sized acquisitions. However, he ruled out a Penguin Random House-merger-style disruption in the market for "at least two-three years".

Nourry said: "I would have to talk to my shareholders for a big acquisition but for medium-sized acquisitions we will remain very active. We live in a market where people are not reading more books, so if you want to deliver growing profits to your shareholders then I need to make some acquisitions."

He added: "We are interested in getting into education in the UK. That is one area we are interested in."