Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


HarperCollins Publishers + Simon & Schuster = Publishing Intrigue Squared

Publishing Mergers = Publishing Intrigue

News Corp, owned by good old baddy Rupert Murdoch — AND just coming off a scandal in Jolly Old England (remember his News of the World tabloid having to go out of business due to its illegal spying and wiretapping?) just happens to be the parent to HarperCollins, the suiter for Simon & Schuster — Hell, this might be publishing intrigue cubed !

What all this means is a great deal of intrigue is present and accounted for in the traditional publishing world’s positioning itself as best it can to defuse Amazon’s growing digital publishing threat.

This by CHRISTOPHER S. STEWART and JOHN JANNARONE in The Wall Street Journal (also owned by baddy Rupert):

News Corp. Eyes Book Publisher

News Corp NWSA +0.17%., owner of HarperCollins Publishers, has expressed interest to CBS Corp. CBS +0.84%about acquiring its Simon & Schuster book business, according to people familiar with the talks.

The people described the discussions as preliminary and cautioned that a deal isn’t imminent. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

The conversations come about a month after the owners of two publishing rivals, Random House and Penguin Group, agreed to merge their books businesses into a publishing powerhouse.

News Corp. made a last-minute expression of interest in buying Pearson PSON.LN +0.42%PLC’s Penguin but never made a formal offer. Instead, Penguin agreed to combine with Bertelsmann SE & Co.’s Random House.

For book publishing, an industry dominated by a half-dozen big companies, consolidation is viewed in part as a way to weather the transition to digital media. Combining forces can allow publishers to gain more heft in negotiating terms with retailers, including Inc., industry executives say.

Simon & Schuster, which was founded in 1924 and publishes about 2,000 titles annually, had $1.6 billion in revenue and $90 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2011, according to CBS regulatory filings.

News Corp. is in the process of splitting into two listed companies, one containing its entertainment assets, such as the 20th Century Fox film studio and Fox News cable channel, and the other housing publishing assets, including Dow Jones and HarperCollins.

While HarperCollins is relatively small to News Corp. in the media giant’s current form, it could account for more than a fifth of the new publishing company’s roughly $500 million of operating income for the fiscal year ending in June 2013, according to Michael Nathanson of Nomura Securities.

The new publishing company is expected to have a significant amount of cash on its balance sheet, potentially to be used for acquisitions. One motivation for the split is the flexibility to pursue the purchase of old-media companies that may have turned off current News Corp. investors, according to a person familiar with the company’s strategy.

News Corp. recently has shown an appetite in other sectors as it prepares for the split, which is expected to be completed by next June. On Tuesday the company said it had agreed to buy a 49% stake in New York regional sports network YES.

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The First Ultimate Online Book Site Has Arrived! will be the ultimate site for all things literaryThree major publishers…Penquin, Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster…have committed to financing a one-stop book marketing and selling site.

The site will be called and will be operational late this summer.

“The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.”…Julie Bosman , NYTimes.

From Julie Bosman:

Publishers Make a Plan: A ‘One Stop’ Book Site

Publishers have spent a lot of time and money building their own company Web sites with fresh information on their books and authors. The trouble is, very few book buyers visit them.

In search of an alternative, three major publishers said on Friday that they would create a new venture, called, which is expected to make its debut late this summer. The site intends to provide information for all things literary: suggestions on what books to buy, reviews of books, excerpts from books and news about authors. Visitors will also be able to buy books directly from the site or from other retailers and write recommendations and reviews for other readers.

The publishers — Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group — hope the site will become a catch-all destination for readers in the way that music lovers visit for reviews and information. The AOL Huffington Post Media Group will provide advertising sales support and steer traffic to the site through its digital properties.

“There’s a frustration with book consumers that there’s no one-stop shopping when it comes to information about books and authors,” said Carolyn Reidy, the president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “We need to try to recreate the discovery of new books that currently happens in the physical environment, but which we don’t believe is currently happening online.”

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An ‘Old-Fashioned’ Publishing Story!

Lately, stories about eBooks and digital publishing models and platforms have been rampant…So, it was a little refreshing to read a story about the firing of a top executive from a large traditional publishing house (Simon & Schuster, to be exact), his mulling over and re-thinking of publishing career directions AND his eventual hiring by ANOTHER large traditional publisher (Penguin, to be exact) as a top executive in a newly created department.

David Rosenthal (pictured) is the publishing exec who fell from the sky but landed on his feet.

Leon Neyfakh of The New York Observer writes this account:

David Rosenthal Puts on His Penguin Suit

The problem with losing your job when you’re a high-level executive in contemporary book publishing is that your options are basically to become a literary agent or do something vague and most likely super-boring involving e-books. So one could have forgiven David Rosenthal for feeling a little gloomy this past summer after being fired abruptly from Simon & Schuster and being replaced by Jonathan Karp, a guy 10 years his junior, at the head of the CBS-owned publisher’s flagship imprint.

This week Mr. Rosenthal is celebrating a happy landing. On Tuesday morning, it was announced that come January he will be running his own boutique imprint at Penguin Group USA, arguably the healthiest of the big New York houses as well as home to a number of the 56-year-old’s former colleagues. Once he gets going, Mr. Rosenthal—whose roster at Simon & Schuster included Bob Woodward, David McCullough, Bob Dylan and Jim Cramer—will be on charge of a small but full-fledged operation at Penguin, with dedicated publicity and marketing muscle and a list totaling somewhere between 24 and 36 books per year.

Over lunch on Tuesday at the Half King in Chelsea, Mr. Rosenthal said Penguin president Susan Petersen Kennedy reached out to him shortly after his firing, and had been “aggressive and enthusiastic” in their talks. He is stoked to go work for her, he said: “People at Penguin don’t bitch about their place of employ nearly as much as people elsewhere. Everybody says, ‘The only person you ever want to work for in publishing anymore is Susan.'”

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Publishers Weekly at Annual South Korean Book Forum: "Publishing in the Digital World"

This article by Publishers Weekly reporter, Andrew Richard Albanese, gives an insight into how other countries are coping with the changing publishing industry. It seems even high tech societies like South Korea are resisting change to digital:

Just two days after returning to New York from the Middle East, we headed to Seoul, South Korea, as part of an American delegation to the annual Paju Book City Forum, along with Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy and University of Hawaii “futurist” James Dator. The topic of this year’s forum: publishing in the digital world. And from the opening day, it was clear that the roughly 100 Korean publishers in attendance were anxious about the future and keen to hear how other nations, including Japan and Australia, were handling change. If Korean publishers are anxious, they have reason to be—in 1997, publishing industry revenues topped $4 billion. By 2008, they had plummeted to $2.5 billion. And over two days of presentations, it’s not likely that anyone’s anxiety was eased.

Built on Books

Paju Book City is a fascinating place. Located about 30 miles from Seoul—the beating heart of South Korea’s high-tech society. Paju is literally a city dedicated to publishing, designed to strengthen through architecture and camaraderie an entire nation’s collective culture. The city houses everything from the offices of Korean publishers to warehouse facilities, as well as libraries, museums, bookshops, and printers. It is built on land reclaimed from the water at the foot of a mountain. By ordinance, no building can rise above five floors or spoil a landscape. And Paju was conceived with sustainability as an underlying theme.

In his opening keynote, Dator gave an enlightening presentation that put the entire conference in perspective, emphasizing that change was indeed coming—because change always comes. True to his Hawaiian roots, he told conference-goers the best they could do was to try to surf the wave. Of course, ever the futurist, he also sketched out a post-fossil fuel world where society collapses and returns to agrarian culture.

In one of the most engaging presentations, Kate Eltham, CEO of the Queensland Writers Center, closed out the conference’s sessions with an overview of new business possibilities. Citing things like mobile devices and social media as opportunities for publishers to innovate, she urged them to deeply examine where they still add value before jumping off the digital cliff. “The challenge isn’t technology,” Eltham stressed, “it’s strategy.”

Platform for Growth

Certainly, the most eagerly anticipated speaker at the conference was Reidy. As the leader of one of the world’s top publishers Koreans welcomed her detailed presentation about the digital marketplace. “E-books are a relatively small, but a rapidly growing, part of our business,” Reidy told publishers, noting that digital currently makes up about 6% percent of S&S’s bottom line, but within the next seven years, digital could account for 25%, she said. The following day, a Korean newspaper eagerly quoted the 25% figure.

In his talk, Lee Jung-ho, director of nascent Korean e-book provider Booxen Digital, acknowledged that Korean publishers remain wary of the digital market. “At this point, the most important thing for Korea is that we must change our perception of digital publishing,” he said. “In Korea, the mistrust of e-books is still prevalent and the publishing industry doesn’t seem ready to jump.”

In fact, a lack of trust may be the only thing inhibiting Korea—a highly tech-oriented society—from enjoying a vibrant e-book market. One ringing testament to Korea’s ability to innovate is Google’s weak foothold there. In fact, Korea is one of the few places where Google has but a small slice of the search market, and where a homegrown search engine, Naver, dominates. Touring Paju, one of the highlights was the digital publishing center—which displayed the full array of handheld reading devices, as well as four floors of innovative, book-oriented technology.

If the two-day forum did little to ease anxiety about the future of books, it very well might have been the push Korean publishers needed to face the future. In her talk, Reidy acknowledged the challenges of moving to digital: Infrastructure is expensive. Decisions are complex. Digital must be integrated—not separated—from organizational goals. In addition, publishers already struggling with declining revenues may not see a return on their digital investments for some time. But she was consistently upbeat, too. “Digital publishing is very exciting,” she said. “Publishers should thrive.”

Still, that was cold comfort for one Korean printer. “My grandfather started this business,” he told me wistfully at a dinner reception. “Now, I will probably not have a business to pass on to my children.”

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