Monday, February 12, 2007

Turf Battle in Publishing, Part II

In yesterday's post, I talked about the growing dispute between US and UK publishing houses over the exclusive rights to publish in what had formerly been an Open Market: continental Europe.

Authors, booksellers and distributors have complained that this turf battle is hurting them while resolving nothing.

In a June, 2006 article, Deutsche Welle, a German broadcaster, quoted the owner of Books in Berlin, an independent German bookstore that specializes in English-language titles, saying that, when he has to choose, he usually orders the US edition because they're cheaper. "He estimates that his stock is comprised of 60 percent US editions, and 40 percent UK editions. Most booksellers in Germany similarly carry a mixture of British and American editions."

A serious concern to these booksellers is the increasing competition they face from the Internet. With more and more readers turning to the Internet, bookstores must be able to compete price-wise.

The June 14, 2006 edition of the New York Times reported that "Sales of British-published English-language editions in continental Europe represent about $300 million in annual revenue" while a Simon & Schuster representative estimated "U.S. publishers sold about $250 million in books in continental Europe a year, about 2 percent of their sales."

With the consolidation of the publishing business, many houses are now owned by mega-corporations. Seven conglomerates now own ninety percent of all media, which frequently includes both a UK and a US publishing house under one umbrella. Therefore, each conglomerate is forced to negotiate the needs of its divisions in both countries.

Best-selling author James Patterson took matters into his own hands when he asked his publisher, Little, Brown and Company (owned by Hachette Book Group USA) to give the UK exclusive rights to his books in Europe and to give the US exclusive rights in the Far East and Asia.

Perhaps prompted by that decision, Hachette Book Group made the decision "to grant exclusive European rights to its U.K. subsidiary in instances where it owns world rights" (Publishers Weekly, 2/6/07).

You might recall I reported yesterday that Tim Hely Hutchinson of Hachette Livre UK argued for the UK's position during the panel at Book Expo America 2006. According to David Young, Hutchinson's counterpart at Hachette Book Group USA, the two reached the decision together. "This means books will not have to travel unnecessarily far," Young said (Publishers Weekly).

The news of the decision was not universally applauded. According to Publishers Lunch, Karl Heinz Petzler, managing director of Lisma, the Lisbon distributor, wrote an angry letter to the corporation. "Petzler declares the decision "only shows that the people inside your group who made this decision . . . do not really care about their customers, but also do not care about their authors, who will lose sales."

Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch quoted an unnamed source who indicated that the decision could be a "public relations disaster for Hachette."

Stay tuned for more . . .


C. H. Green said...

Hi Maya!
Stopping by to say hi and thanks for the enlightening posts.

Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, C.H.

Glad you stopped by. Come again any time.