Last November, I blogged about the possible Random House and Penguin Books merger. Or rather, the merger between German conglomerate Bertelsmann (the owner of Random House) and the parent company of Penguin (the British company Pearson). At the time, the merger had not yet been approved by the regulatory agencies. As controversial as the merger was for some, most experts thought it would be approved and that the newly named Penguin Random House would become reality.
Sure enough, it seems they might be right. One major step has made this huge merger possible. As reported by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved the upcoming merger. On top of that, the DOJ did not impose any conditions upon the merger. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that the DOJ had approved this merger.
Because huge international corporations are involved, the DOJ isn’t the only government entity that will be looking into this upcoming merger. According to the New York Times article, while the DOJ approval was far from a shock to experts, approval from international bodies won’t be as easy. Approval from the European Commission might prove to be a stumbling block. At the very least, the EC is expected to impose conditions on the merger. Also, the merger has to be approved by the Canadian Competition Bureau, among others.
Do I want the merger to go through? It depends. The New York Times article also points out that the new company, Penguin Random House, will control “25 percent of the English-language consumer book market.” That’s a lot of books for one company to control, and one has to wonder how that will affect authors and readers. On the other hand, in today’s changing marketplace, it seems that companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google already control a huge portion of the consumer book market (not to mention the music, movie, TV, and app market). So maybe a big merger in the publishing industry is needed to make actual publishers a strong part of book publishing again. Actual publishers competing with Amazon, Apple, and Google. Wow, what a concept. However, if I read the phrase “new digital publishing models” one more time, I will throw my ereader at a financial reporter.
Let’s hope the regulators who are looking into this merger, and the people at the top of Bertelsmann and Penguin, have the wisdom of Solomon. Publishing already has demons of its own to cope with.
– Anne Marble