The publishing world is a rapidly-changing entity, with the rise of e-books taking the place of traditional paper and self-publishing becoming less a vanity enterprise and more a viable career option. For Pearson and Bertelsmann, two of the biggest names in publishing, the need to change in the face of growing competition and a changing market has spurred them to announce earlier today a new joint venture in which they combine some efforts, but leave some to their own devices.
The joint venture brings together Penguin and Random House into the new joint venture known as Penguin Random House, with Bertelsmann owning 53 percent and Pearson keeping 47 percent. The companies say that the newly-minted joint venture will provide a better platform overall, as well as "greater resources to invest in rich content, new digital publishing models and high-growth emerging markets". The joint venture also expects to see savings thanks to pooled resources and likely a bit less redundancy. However, Bertelsmann's trade publishing business, primarily run in Germany, will not be part of the joint venture, and Pearson is still free to use the Penguin brand by itself in the education markets in which it's often found.
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This is also a move expected to help give consumers more variety, as the two companies involved in the joint venture look to give customers more ready access to "a wider and more diverse range of frontlist and backlist content in multiple print and digital formats". Additionally, authors get a boost from "a greater depth and breadth of service".
It likely won't surprise anyone that no one mentioned, really, the competition involved and how this joint venture is likely a reaction to same. But there's no denying that the publishing world has been greatly and deeply impacted by the move to ePublishing. The old gatekeeper system of the past simply doesn't apply in a world where anyone with a computer and some time on their hands can put together a book for sale, or even for free giveaway. Not to mention a world where a self-published title can do as well in terms of sales as some A-list writers' titles.
Only time will tell how well the Penguin Random House label can do against the growing array of online competition, but if the major publishing houses are starting to realize the true potential of online publishing, and are prepared to put their marketing muscle into the market, then we may well be looking at yet another sea change in terms of publishing. A sea change, more specifically, in which the big houses dominate again by virtue of their connections and their ability to access marketing channels to which lone authors generally don't have access. The future of ePublishing -- indeed, all publishing -- is a dynamic field, so it may well be ready to change once more.
Edited by Rich Steeves