Readersforum's Blog

December 4, 2012

How Mergermania Is Destroying Book Publishing

bookstore_ap_img  By André Schiffrin
The recently announced merger of Penguin and Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann in Germany, sent shock waves throughout Western publishing circles. This new leviathan will publish a quarter of all books appearing in English, with annual sales of close to $4 billion, yet it is being treated by The New York Times and other media as a routine and perhaps even beneficial development.

Since the 1980s, when Random House was purchased by Si Newhouse’s Advance Publications, mergers have swallowed up most small and independent US and British firms. Publishing has been so dominated by the major conglomerates that another merger seems natural, the Times suggests. Indeed, others can be expected to follow. Rupert Murdoch has already expressed his disappointment at not having bought Penguin and his desire to buy another large firm to merge with HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corporation, which his family controls.

In a way, there’s a logic to this analysis. The mergers are occurring because book publishing has proved to be less profitable than the conglomerates had hoped. For most of the past two centuries, Western houses averaged a mere 3 percent annual profit. The new owners had hoped to raise the rate closer to 25 percent, to match those of their other holdings: newspapers, magazines and TV stations (even though these depend on advertising). But try as it might, publishing failed to churn out enough bestsellers.

Then came the competition from Amazon, which has entered the publishing market itself, hiring agents and editors to help it find bestselling authors. Amazon has also forced publishers to accept its pricing of e-books at $9.99—which has drastically reduced their profit margins and has the additional benefit for Amazon of weakening sales of the traditional trade paperback, the format publishers have counted on as a dependable earner.  It has even refused to list the books of houses that resisted its policies. Amazingly, the Justice Department has taken an extremely narrow view of the antitrust laws, prosecuting the publishers resisting Amazon’s pricing rather than the behemoth pressuring them.

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June 3, 2012

The Amazon Effect

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 11:55 am

  By Steve Wasserman
From the start, Jeff Bezos wanted to “get big fast.” He was never a “small is beautiful” kind of guy. The Brobdingnagian numbers tell much of the story. In 1994, four years after the first Internet browser was created, Bezos stumbled upon a startling statistic: the Internet had been growing at the rate of 2,300 percent annually. In 1995, the year Bezos, then 31, started Amazon, just 16 million people used the Internet. A year later, the number was 36 million, a figure that would multiply at a furious rate. Today, more than 1.7 billion people, or almost one out of every four humans on the planet, are online. Bezos understood two things. One was the way the Internet made it possible to banish geography, enabling anyone with an Internet connection and a computer to browse a seemingly limitless universe of goods with a precision never previously known and then buy them directly from the comfort of their homes. The second was how the Internet allowed merchants to gather vast amounts of personal information on individual customers.

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June 27, 2011

Foundation donates N1bn worth of books, to schools

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 12:36 pm

By Nwanosike Onu

Secretary to the Government of the Federation Senator Anyim Pius Anyim,  Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State and his Imo State counterpart inability to pay Rochas Okorocha have hailed Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Sir Emeka Offor’s concern for the needy.

Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SOEF),in collaboration with Books for Africa (BFA),USA distributed over one million books and educational materials to 30 universities in the country.

Over 100 secondary schools and 100 primary schools were given laptops and desktops worth over N900 million by the Foundation

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January 15, 2011

Literature and Exile

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , — Bookblurb @ 5:27 pm

Roberto Bolaño delivered this speech in 2000 at a symposium organized by the Austrian Society for Literature in Vienna. It was translated by Natasha Wimmer and appears in Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches (1998-2003), forthcoming from New Directions.

I’ve been invited to talk about exile. The invitation I received was in English, and I don’t speak English. There was a time when I did or thought I did, or at least there was a time, in my adolescence, when I thought I could read English almost as well, or as poorly, as Spanish. Sadly, that time has passed. I can’t read English. By what I could gather from the letter, I think I was supposed to talk about exile. Literature and exile. But it’s very possible that I’m completely mistaken, which, thinking about it, would actually be an advantage, since I don’t believe in exile, especially not when the word sits next to the word “literature.”…read more

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