ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.

Penguin Random House: Big Six Realignment Begins

Penguin Random House (Image by Marco Leone)

Penguin Random House (Image by Marco Leone)

By now you’ve heard the latest publishing industry scuttlebutt: Random House and Penguin are shacking up. But unlike many celebrity pairings which fuel the rumor mill (Is it a marriage of passion? Convenience?), this high profile marriage offers neither surprise nor mystery.

Penguin Random House is obviously a marriage of survival.

Like two gilded empires arranging a desperate diplo-nuptial alliance, these Big Six giants are defending their hegemony in a publishing marketplace increasingly dominated by Amazon, Apple and Google.

The book publishing industry is starting to get smaller in order to get stronger.

[The Penguin Random House merger] could set off a long-expected round of consolidation as the industry adapts to the digital marketplace… The merger will create the largest consumer book publisher in the world… [enabling] greater scale to deal with the challenges arising from the growth of electronic books and the power of Internet retailers.


Facing those challenges, the major publishers have been expected to join together, getting smaller in number and bigger in size… They could all now face increased pressure to consolidate in response to a combined Penguin Random House.


HarperCollins has already signaled its interest in consolidation… Analysts also said there could be matchups between large publishing houses and smaller, independent ones. (

Not a surprise. Inevitable. Catalytic at the very least and potentially transformative. But, too little too late? Perhaps.

Compare Penguin Random House’s potential leverage.

Penguin Random House would potentially have the market power to negotiate better deals for itself. That said, the company’s $4 billion in revenues in 2011 put it at about a tenth the size of Amazon with its $48.08 in revenues. (Forbes)

Bob Mayer dismissed the question of leverage in a tidy quip over on Nathan Bransford‘s blog.

How are they going to “battle” Amazon? Two very different entities.

And while NY is at least a year or two behind the digital age, making a larger entity certainly isn’t going to enhance change when they’re going to spend their time learning to merge, rather than advance. Small, agile publishers are the wave of the future and this was a step in the wrong direction. (Bob Mayer, via Nathan Bransford)

Leverage is leverage, especially given the massive publishing/retail bandwidth Amazon represents, but one wonders if it might take all of the Big Six merging to arm wrestle Amazon. And that might pose a few monopoly obstacles.

More likely, I imagine, will be increasingly widespread (and rapid) transformation among the traditional publishing companies. Much top talent will become free agents and many entry/mid-range talent will transition to other industries as the traditional publishing empires downsize and adapt leaner, more agile, customer-centric and creator-centric business models.

While a transition of this magnitude is inevitably destructive and scary, it is bound to fuel innovation, and this excites me and many other storytellers. Let the realignment begin! Who will follow Penguin Random House?

Self-Publish with Apple’s IBookstore

Self-publish with Apple iBookstore

Official instructions are now available on how to self-publish books for the iBookstore. Until recently this information was inaccessible to the public, favoring larger publishers with which Apple has formed deals. In order to submit a book, several criteria must be met. These include having an ISBN-13 number and a US tax ID, and uploading only ePub files which have passed EpubCheck 1.0.5.

Apple also warns prospective sellers that while titles can be sold in multiple countries, the company will not pay out until unspecified earning thresholds are met in each region. Payment may be faster, it suggests, through approved aggregators including BiblioCore, Constellation, Lulu and others. The tradeoff is that aggregator services collect some of a writer’s income from each book.(

Apple has posted their guide for everyone to publish and sell their titles through it’s immensely popular platform. And CreateSpace opens up Amazon’s self-publishing and sales platformAre we seeing a major sea change, or what?


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IPad-Only Challenge – Friday Update

Steve Rubel’s observations after using the iPad as his “primary computer” for five days:

First, you would be surprised what a joy it is to have a device that: turns on instantly, requires no saving (!), is completely silent and has incredible battery life…

Second, there’s no doubt in my mind that the iPad marks a pivotal moment in the history of computing. People want computing to be simpler…

Finally, I notice that now when I use my phone it feels, well, tiny! I am using my smart phones less and using the iPad more…


Could you switch over to iPad as your primary (or only) computer?

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Why I Won’t Buy an IPad

So what does Marvel do to “enhance” its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of “content” isn’t just that they can get it for free, though: it’s that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targeted more narrowly than the old media ever managed.

If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn’t for you.

If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn’t for you.


Cory Doctorow’s post “Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either)” over at Boing Boing is timely, feisty and smart. The four paragraphs above capture the essence of his argument. Apple, take note! The future is open. To gain a place of enduring relevance, iPad must learn to play well with others.

For my part, I will buy an iPad. And I will challenge its creative limits while exploring my own!

Will you buy an iPad?

Apple Scrambles to Secure IPad Deals

Photograph courtesy of Getty Images via Wall Street Journal

Apple is still working to secure content for the iPad with just weeks to go before the tablet computer’s release, said people familiar with the matter, as the company tempers some of its initial ambitions for the much-hyped device.

Publisher in Talks with Apple over IPad

“Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, said in December that e-books enhanced with video, author interviews and social-networking applications could command higher retail prices for publishers than current e-books.” (Wall Street Journal)

I’m keeping my eyes on @harperstudio and vook among others…

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