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Friday, August 8, 2014

Hatchette Can't Keep Their Stories Straight

In an article released last Thursday, American publishing industry magazine Publishers Weekly claimed Hatchette Book Group's sales rose 5.6% despite their current lack of a contract with Amazon in their headline. The next day, British newspaper The Guardian claimed a 1% dip in sales in theirs. So who's telling the truth?

Actually, both are once you dig through the respective articles. But the headlines are the amusing aspect.

It shows the difference in how Hatchette and the rest of the BPHs are twisting their PR campaign against Amazon in the U.S. The PW article plays into the David succeeding against Goliath meme that is extremely popular in American culture.

Just one little problem with that. Hatchette Book Group is owned by Lagardere Group, a French company whose 2013 revenues exceeded 7 BILLION euros. Compare that to Amazon, an American company, whose 2013 revenues were $74.5 MILLION U.S. dollars. Exchange rates aside, who is exactly the Goliath here.

Hatchette isn't the only foreign player in this game. Most of the Big Five are owned by non-American concerns.Penguin Random House is co-owned by German corporation Bertelsmann and Pearson PLC, a British company. Harper Collins is owned News Corp., whose primary shareholder Rupert Murdoch is Austrailian. Macmillan in controlled by Holtzbrinck, another German concern. Simon & Schuster is the only American player, and it's a teeny, tiny part of media giant CBS Corp.

In Europe, the BPHs don't have to worry so much about getting the news media on their side. A huge chunk of the news outlets are already owned by the parent companies of the Big Five, and they consider Amazon a snotty little American upstart.  But the sad part is the newspaper outlets are facing the same problems as their American counterparts--a loss of readership as more people switch to the internet and other electronic media for their news. And this is why The Guardian had an alarmist headline. "The American are coming! The Americans are coming!"

So what does this all mean?

In the end, not a damn thing. One of my great-grandfathers was fond of the saying, "The only constant in the universe is change."

The Big Five may think their conspiracy and now their little PR war with slow adaptation of e-books, but they're wrong. Not when e-book sales have jumped from less than 1% to over 40% in the last five years. It's time for the Big Five to jump on the change train before they get run over.

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