By Neil Sears - |Britain could lose its last major publisher thanks to a proposed merger of Penguin with a German-owned firm.
Penguin was launched in 1935 and soon became a household name thanks to its pioneering use of paperbacks.
But its survival as a British company is now set to end if a plan to merge it with the Random House publishing company goes ahead.
It would mean that within just a few decades we have lost all of our major publishers.
The remaining British book companies include Bloomsbury and independents such as Faber and Oxford University Press, but they are dwarfed by the foreign-owned conglomerates.
Last night Liz Thomson, editor of Book Brunch, described the proposed merger as ‘a very sad day’ for British publishing.
‘Twenty-five years ago we had a number of major companies – Chatto, Cape, Bodley Head, Hodder and Stoughton. But then they were bought,’ she said.
‘All these recognisable names are now no longer British publishers.
‘I’m not a little Englander –it’s just a shame that we had some very good publishers and now they’re almost all owned by someone else.’
Random House has been receiving huge profits in recent months thanks to the runaway success of its Fifty Shades of Grey ‘Mummy porn’ books.
Combining the two firms’ sales would give it a share of more than a quarter of the British book market, which would lead to examination from competition authorities. Some industry experts have welcomed the merger, however.
Phil Jones, editor of the Bookseller trade magazine, said: ‘The merger of Penguin and Random House would create a powerhouse of a consumer publisher across books, ebooks and apps.
‘The deal makes sense – Amazon’s market share of physical and ebooks in the UK is fast approaching 40 per cent, with competition now only really provided by equally huge tech giants such as Apple and Google.
‘Publishers simply need greater muscle if they’re going to have a presence on these new platforms and a say in how these markets develop.’
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