Strategy: The Big Merge
"My own view is that it's going to happen without too much of a hiccup," he says. "What happens next with other trade publishers is going to be interesting to see. In addition to rumors about HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, says Cairns, "Hachette has always been suggested to have a lot of money to spend if they wanted to spend it."
With regard to the notion that the new entity will enjoy leverage over Amazon, Cairns is doubtful. "We've seen how aggressive Amazon can be in negotiating with publishers, turning the tables on them, turning off their buy button, things of that sort. I think that at best there'll be some type of equilibrium. … They've all got to sell books. Random Penguin is going to end up with a great stable of authors and that's going to be valuable, and Amazon wants to be selling them."
A director at the Internet Archives
Convener of the Books In Browsers conference
There is a sense in some segments of the industry that for publishers to thrive in the emerging digital world, nimbleness and a facility with emerging technology will be paramount. And those are not qualities Peter Brantley, he of the Internet Archives and the Books In Browsers conference, sees emerging from moves like this.
"The type of merger we just saw and that we will be seeing are overwhelmingly defensive," says Brantley. "I'm not going to suggest that any of these companies are going to turn into nimble, fleet-footed examples of publishing innovation. But it's hard to fault companies for thinking this is a rational path for them."
While size helps with the scale piece of the publishing equation, it's not generally conducive to rapid response. And the speed at which technology changes existing business and distribution models doesn't appear to be decelerating.