Hachette

Go Read This | Little, Brown Acquire Constable & Robinson

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.

via constable-and-robinson-little-brown.

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Go Read This | Bookish Acquired by Zola

Interesting piece of news this:

Michael Pietsch, CEO of Hachette, said the founding publishers “never intended to run Bookish forever,” and that their objective of starting a first-class recommendation engine has been achieved in the current Bookish version. Despite the problems, and costs, of getting Bookish off the ground, Pietsch said the founding publishers would tackle the venture again. “We saw a need for a great discovery engine and that is what we created. We are happy to see it move to Zola where we expect it will thrive.”

With Bookish, Zola will be able to expand on existing elements of its social networking capabilities. Chiefly, the acquisition allows Zola to incorporate Bookish\’s book recommendation technology into its site. (That technology is a proprietary algorithm pairing users with content.) Regal said this is “the most exciting aspect of the Bookish opportunity. ” The recommendation engine Bookish has built will be incorporated into Zola’s site and this, Regal thinks, “is going to be really significant.” While Regal could not share details about how the Bookish algorithm would be added to Zola, he said it will happen “in the months to come” and he could explain more once “we have more insight into their technology.”

via Bookish Acquired by Zola.

What Lagardère’s First Half results Doesn’t Say

To be fair, Lagardère’s first half report does draw attention to its success in digital, in fact, on the publishing side, it says the following:

Digital books continued their rise in English-speaking countries, accounting for 34% of Adult Trade sales in the United States (vs. 27% at end-June 2012) and 31% in the United Kingdom (vs. 22% at end-June 2012). Digital books now account for 11.3% of Lagardère Publishing’s total net sales, compared with 8.4% at the end of June 2012. In France, the contribution of digital sales to Adult Trade sales remains low (3.2%), although rising sharply.

But you need to actually work the sums to see what that means. It means that in Fast-half 2013 Lagardère saw €103.61million in digital sales (Based n 11.3% of Net Sales for the division of €907million). So digital is now worth over €100million in net sales to Lagardère. That €100million is €27.59million more than First-half 2012.

That €27.59million represents just over 3% of overall net sales for the publishing division meaning practically all the like-for-like growth in the division and more  than all the reported growth in the division came from digital. Without digital, Lagardère Publishing would be a shrinking business.

Perhaps more interestingly, while digital is clearly growing well, another part of the business is also booming, their Partworks unit. Different ends of the spectrum in some ways, but driven by trends obvious in digital too, branded and licensed content and subscriptions with a healthy dose of direct-to-consumer thrown in for good measure!

Fascinating.

A Thought On | Book Publisher Hachette Closes Down In NZ

I have two questions about this that have only occurred to me having read this yesterday;

1) If the book trade is so badly impacted in New Zealand and ebooks are growing so rapidly, why is the sales team being retained, surely they’d be about the first to lose their usefulness?

2) The implication of this story (although it isn’t in fact stated) is that local authors are not holding their own against outside authors, why is that and what are the implications for other smaller English language territories?

HACHETTE New Zealand, the local arm of the global publisher whose titles include biographies of Richie McCaw and Mark Todd, is to cease publishing locally with the loss of 12 jobs including its long-serving management team.

The New Zealand company, which publishes locally under the Hodder Moa imprint, will continue as a marketing and sales office for the group’s international titles and New Zealand backlist, according to a statement from Malcolm Edwards, chairman for Hachette Australia and New Zealand.

Local finance, administration and IT functions will be relocated to Australia and publishing will cease in New Zealand after the completion of its 2013 programme.

The New Zealand publishing business has shrunk largely because of “the increased sourcing of books from overseas, at the expenses of the local trade, and the rapid growth of e-books,” Mr Edwards said.

via Book publisher Hachette closes down in NZ | Herald Sun.

Go Read This | It’s on — US sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices — paidContent

I tells ya, some fun will be had with this one methinks! I hope Agency falls, I really don’t like it!

The Justice Department has at last filed an anti-trust complaint in New York against Apple and five publishers over an alleged price fixing conspiracy. (Update: Three publishers to settle)

The decision to sue comes after weeks of media leaks that suggested the government was trying to pressure the parties into a settlement.

The issue turns on whether five publishers illegally colluded with Apple to implement “agency pricing” in which the publishers set a price and the retailer takes a commission. (see here for more details)

The lawsuit has yet to be posted on the Justice Department’s website but Bloomberg News says Apple and five of the “Big 6″ publishers are named as defendants. The named publishers are Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette SA, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. (Update: a Bloomberg report says the latter three will settle. This is consistent with a leak earlier this month).

via It’s on — US sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices — paidContent.

Why JK Rowling’s New Book Might NOT Be A Boon For Booksellers

I’ve been seeing quite a bit of commentary about J K Rowling’s newly announced book along the lines of the tweet below(1):

The Bookseller also reported some great positive comments like:

Jonathan Ruppin, Foyles web editor, said: “It is clearly huge news, it is the talk of the office already. It will be the biggest selling book of that time, I am sure other publishers will move their books out of schedules to make room for it.

But the truth is there are reasons to expect that the book will NOT be a boost to booksellers. Many reasons in fact, but here are just four:

1) Supermarkets. Like they did with Harry Potter, it seems highly likely that supermarkets will attempt to attract buyers into their stores by selling the new book below cost. Such competition makes such highly hyped titles difficult to sell for independent booksellers and even chains have trouble competing with the likes of Tesco.

2) Ebooks. Well the truth is that booksellers will largely NOT benefit from ebook sales, rather Amazon, Apple and Kobo along with whoever sells the ebook editions will.

3) Online Sales. I suppose the online retailers will do well, but pre-orders, especially through Amazon and Amazon owned sites will probably be the key winner in this space, rather than through independent or chain bookstores.

4) The Economy. So J K Rowling will do well from this but in an environment where free cash is limited the likelihood is that the book will simply change purchasing patterns in the book trade rather than expand the market. Rowling’s big name will attract money and books released around the same time will do less well than they might have with the overall impact being neutral to moderately positive rather than massive. Thus isn’t, I stress, an attack on Rowling, simply the reality of how things go.

All told I’m fairly pleased to see Rowling move past Potter and I think it was wise to move publisher at the same time enabling a proper brand extension. There’s a big part of me hopes that I am wrong, but a bigger part that expects to be right!

Eoin

(1) And I am not picking on The O’Brien Press here!

The Growth Of The UK Ebook Market

Really fascinating glimpse of the development of the UK ebook business from BML/Bowker (as a teaser for their annual conference in March):

The survey also looks at how the e-book industry fares by genre. The adult fiction market saw spectacular e-book growth in 2011, up from 2.8% of purchases in the four weeks ending 26th December 2010 to 12.5% in the four weeks to 27th November 2011. But again, as e-books are being bought for lower prices, they accounted for only 7.1% of adult fiction spending in the latest period

via Bowker – British Book Buyers are Switching to “e” from Print and Spending Less.

Let’s start with the increase. From 2.8% of purchases to 12.5% of purchases that an increase of 346%.

Not bad going, especially when you consider the report doesn’t include the key Christmas period. That’s the same period by the way that saw Hachette, HarperCollins and Random House each sell over 100,000 ebooks on Christmas Day alone.

That suggests strongly that the 500% increase suggested by at least one UK publisher and referenced by The Bookseller’s Philip Jones in the excellent Futurebook email newsletter:

Were e-book sales in the UK worth £105m in 2011? That was the figure implied by Hachette UK when it stated last week that its e-book sales of £21m amounted to a 20% share of the UK e-book market. Hachette added that its own e-book sales had grown by “nearly 500%”.

We do not know if Hachette’s figure was stated at invoiced or published prices, and whether it included audio-book downloads and/or app sales, but either way it seems unlikely that Hachette’s own e-book growth will not have been reflected in the wider e-book market, meaning a second year of growth at 500%.

Jones has much much more of value in that newsletter this week so I encourage you to go read it. As Jones points out, if that £105m is correct and the market grows at a similar pace in 2012, that would bring digital sales to £500m and around 30% of the market! Pretty impressive growth.

Of course as I pointed our earlier this month, as ebook sales increase the have to overcome larger hurdles to show such large percentage gains. I’m not sure 2012 will deliver that in the UK, but it sure will be fun to find out if it can.

Eoin