The Guardian view on the writing business: readers must ultimately benefit | Editorial

The Guardian view on the writing business: readers must ultimately benefit | Editorial

The Guardian

.

.
.
.

People want stories and that means cultivating a publishing ecosystem where big and small can flourish

This week both the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority and the Department of Justice in the US announced investigations into the planned $2.2bn acquisition of the publisher Simon & Schuster by Bertelsmann, which already owns Penguin Random House. The merger, if allowed, would see Bertelsmann have almost one-third of English-language book sales. The move follows a year when a population cocooned at home, reaching for comfort reading, inflated the profits of big publishers. Bloomsbury and Pan Macmillan recently announced that they would be returning furlough payments; HarperCollins did not take them.

Many of the UK’s smaller publishers fared rather differently: a Bookseller survey last summer found 60% feared they would cease to exist by autumn. Indies tend not to have the backlists full of household names that, say, a Penguin has; they depend far more on serendipity, on a customer wandering into a shop intending to buy one thing but coming out with something else as well. This happens far less with online shopping; at least one publisher lost up to 90% in sales. Some also found it difficult to qualify for furlough. They took to social media to announce their plight, or to try new selling tactics; some crowdfunded; some received emergency Arts Council England cash. Many were dragged back from the brink, for which we should be grateful.

Continue reading…