Thursday, February 09, 2006

European Companies Buy American Publishers

Did you know that Time Warner Book Group was just acquired by Lagardure, a French company?

Did you also know that "Random House, the largest U.S. publisher, is a division of Germany's Bertelsmann. Germany's Holtzbrinck owns the venerable Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Henry Holt, along with the not-so-venerable St. Martin's. Britain's Pearson owns the sprawling Penguin Group, which includes American imprints Viking, Riverhead, and Putnam. And Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (OK, he's an American citizen and the company is based in New York, but both are of Australian extraction) owns a lot of American publishers, too, including Harper Collins and William Morrow & Co." ?

An interesting article in Slate, Das Book (where the above information was quoted from), examines the trend and its causes.

Daniel Gross, the writer of the article, focuses on business reasons. One reason is that publishing houses usually comprise a small portion of large American corporations. Two is that the publishing business has near-stagnant growth, unfitting the American business culture of focusing on high growth industries. Three is the small margins in the publishing industry which American businesses tend to shy away from.

This explains why Americans companies sell their publishing arms.

As to why European companies buy them, Daniel sites different corporate culture, less public ownership demanding certain results and the size of the US market. For a small European company a near-stagnant US market still offers quite a bit of growth. Not to mention the purchasing of a brand-name.

The article ends with a prediction that CBS-owned Simon & Schuster will soon be dumped as well.


As for us, the writers, does the European ownership of a publisher mean anything? Would editorial guidelines change?
Despite Europeans being portrayed as more cultured (not my saying), I doubt that would be the case. The intended market remains the US (and Canada) which implies still catering to the N.American consumer taste. So no, I don't think this trend will affect the industry greatly.

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6 comments:

David Amulet said...

From what I have seen, the ultimate ownership of the uber-conglomerates have little impact on us, the lowly talent thhat keeps them going. Editorial decisions still rest in the same hands ... it's just that their paychecks are coming from a different end source.

While sad in that US publishers of signifcant size can't seem to keep from being bought up, it's nothing I will lose sleep over!

-- david

Melly said...

Exactly my feelings.
I didn't think it would have any impact on editorial decisions either.

Benjamin Solah said...

I don't think it'd make much of a difference. Though, it's interesting to know Murdoch owns Harper Collins. That guy has a stake in everything.

melly said...

Yeah Benjamin. Doesn't he?

FredCQ said...

Thanks for posting this. It's good to keep up on what is going on in the publishing world.

Melly said...

Welcome :)