When I saw this yesterday I thought we’d see more comment, after all it marks the acquisition of one of the more significant independents left in the UK at the same times as one of the other more significant independents (Quercus) has announced that it is for sale.
I think it’s a very smart buy by Little, Brown in that it closes off possible mergers and alliances that might have been more harmful to its interests and builds their list in some areas where, if they are not necessarily weak, they can always be stronger. As others have pointed out C&R has a decent direct to consumer operation which is no doubt attractive in these times of weakening booksellers.
All in all, an interesting move:
In the short term, Constable & Robinson, under Managing Director Pete Duncan who will now report to Little, Brown Publisher David Shelley, will continue trading from its current premises in Russell Square with business conducted as usual. The transaction has been structured as a purchase by Little, Brown of 100 per cent shareholding in the business, which remains intact as a company. All its contracts remain valid and will be honoured. There should be no disruption for authors and all arrangements with customers, freelancers, distribution partners, suppliers and other contacts of the house stand as they are at least until fully discussed with the parties concerned.
You should read the full piece, but I don’t buy the logic. HC would be far better off spending considerably less on a decent design/code house that would bring expertise inside or even in buying the time of an outside house in full than attempting to integrate a large publisher facing all the same issues it faces itself to acquire digital innovation know-how. Two better reasons present themselves for this move, the first, content acquisition and lots of it and the second defensive market consolidation.
HarperCollins is acquiring Christian publisher Thomas Nelson—publisher of the mega-bestselling Heaven Is For Real—for an undisclosed sum in a deal that will be finalized by the end of the year. Thomas Nelson has been on the forefront of experimentation with digital publishing, and HarperCollins is buying not just the company but also that digital experience.
Another incredibly sensible acquisition by Bloomsbury and yet another that pulls them further away from the territory of a strict trade publisher. Good for them:
Bloomsbury’s strategy has been to increase its proportion of academic and professional revenues compared to trade revenues through retail channels. The current strength of the Groups academic sales compared to consumer sales vindicates this strategy. Academic revenues are more predictable and have lower related costs of sale with resulting higher margins, and are much less reliant on retail bookshop sales. Around 60% of Continuums sales are outside the UK, thereby increasing Bloomsburys exposure to the global book market. Through this acquisition, for the first time, Bloomsbury will have an academic editorial and marketing team in the US. Bloomsbury has an excellent track record in exploiting digital opportunities; this acquisition will enable us to develop Continuums 7,000 strong backlist through conversion to e-book formats and the creation of new subscription based academic services.
Clock this one up to a great real-world play that adds value to an existing portfolio of titles and content while also building on Osprey’s digital potential. Old House seems like the perfect fit for Shire and like some of Bloomsbury’s recent acquisitions the opportunities to create something that extends the brand into digital publishing is very real. Oddly enough too, the acquisition suggests that Richard Charkin’s comments at the ‘Are Publisher’s Relevant?’ debate yesterday about how the new digital age makes strict focus (here’s hoping I didn’t pick him up incorrectly) less important when building list has a real-life example, Osprey the home of a heritage, a military and a science-fiction imprint!
Rebecca Smart, Osprey Groups Managing Director, said:Old House is my ideal addition to the Osprey family. Weve worked incredibly hard with Shire over the last four years, and with real success, to establish ourselves as a major force in the British heritage market. The addition of Old House, especially bearing in mind our plans to grow and diversify its list, will really help to consolidate our position in that sector.
Our thoroughly modern editor will sometimes go by the the name project developer. Rightly so. Even today, books are projects. Acquisition, editing, artwork, production, marketing…all of these are part of the final product that is known as a book. This project must be shepherded through the entire process, guided by a strong vision. Fragmentation of vision is a guarantee of failure.
Someone needs to be in charge of all aspects of the book — whatever form it takes — from beginning to end. This is particularly true if the book is slotted as a transmedia project. Nobody — nobody! — is better positioned to execute the vision than the acquiring editor. It’s a different kind of job. It’s a visionary kind of job.
Fast forward 20 years and the scale economic model is falling apart for trade publishing. So effective at applying scale to accounting, manufacturing, management, production and other overhead, it is ironic that in the internet world everyone now has access to similar scale benefits. Publishing companies now realize they have achieved scale advantages in the wrong functions. Scale advantage in editorial, marketing, promotion, and content management is almost non-existent to the degree that will ensure competitive advantage, yet these are the functions important to future success. (As an isolated example, I would argue that authonomy.com by Harpercollins represents an attempt to build scale into the editorial process).
In many ways this is a fairly sensible move from Amazon:
Similar to AmazonEncore, Amazon’s first publishing imprint, AmazonCrossing uses customer feedback and other data from Amazon sites around the world to identify exceptional books deserving of a wider, global audience. AmazonCrossing will acquire the rights and translate the books and then introduce them to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, and national and independent booksellers via third-party wholesalers.
It does go to show though how much power Amazon has gained for itself through hard work and enterprise. Owning the relationship with readers is enabling them to leverage their other capabilities and to relatively rapidly create imprints. Right now they seem small enterprises and mant dismiss them, but as I have pointed out before (and been shown to be correct) small things can grow!
Some questions arise here:
1) Will agents see the value of this outfit?
2) Will authors prefer more established houses?
3) Will their sales data and reader feedback advantage give Amazon a clear advantage over traditional houses in the rights acquisition field?
4) How will publishers react?
That last question is by far the biggest and strategically important. 2010 has really seen a ramping up of Amazon’s publishing enterprises. Beside this new imprint and a fairly large increase in the numbers of titles published under the Encore brand, they also announced this week that they had acquired a pretty mainstream writer. Publishers surely must see the danger that Amazon presents when it pursues actions like these!