Is it good? Is it bad? Should Rupert Murdoch care? Will Penguin and Random House now be more innovative as a result of combining forces, or less so as a result of the monopolistic threat that mergers create? Are Random and Penguin seeking to have more bargaining power with Amazon and maintain the otherwise status quo? Are they fighting back or conceding something? But if the other major houses are all publishing much the same kind of material anyway, then the only specific loss for certain is that there is less competition. Also, we’ll have to see how Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Hachette respond. Oh, and regulators haven’t quite permitted the deal to be complete.
I recognize that writers want to be hopeful about the situation, but I have to wonder, why do the companies really feel like they need to merge in order to innovate? Surely, it’s not that simple.
There’s really not much distinction between the major publishers right now anyway. An author may have her book out with Penguin, or Random House, or Random Penguin, or fill-in-the-blank house. They do have distinct histories, of course, and personalities but really would the general population think of them as clearly distinctive? They have the resources to put as much (or as little) cash into a project, and therefore they should also, by extension, have the greatest reach for the greatest talent. And they better with the organizational infrastructure they’re also paying for.
With the same access to social media, design, print, ebooks, and distribution as any major publisher, what’s to a small publisher? Well, lots of things. Like money for advertising and promotion–not to mention paying authors. Authors still do get paid. Publishers may be getting worked out of the system from powerhouses such as Amazon, but certainly one major role they still can and need to play is promotion. The big players can still do that.