Random House

John Gapper

There are many serious things to say about the merger of Random House and Penguin but the aspect that most strikes me is what a wasted opportunity it is to have an entertaining brand name.

As widely noted on Twitter, the decision to call the merged entity Penguin Random House is aesthetically far inferior to the alternative: Random Penguin. Jane Thynne, the journalist and author, summed it up nicely:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/janethynne/status/262846418203578368"] 

John Gapper

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

So the US Department of Justice has struck, pushing three of the major book publishers into a settlement that will allow Amazon to resume discounting of electronic books, with three others left outside the settlement.

I’ve argued before against the anti-trust actions in the US and Europe to limit “agency pricing” by  publishers and hand power back to Amazon, so I won’t rehearse that here. Instead, I’ll consider briefly what the effect of the settlement is likely to be.

In short, although it is clearly good news for Amazon and bad news for the big publishers, the outcome may not be as clear-cut as the headlines suggest. 

John Gapper

Perhaps there is good news for book publishers in the talks with anti-trust authorities in the US and Europe on how electronic books are priced. Admittedly, the good news is well hidden.

On the face of it, publishers are in trouble from the threat by the US Department of Justice and the European Commission to strike down their preferred “agency model” for pricing, under which they set their retail prices for ebooks, rather than leaving it to distributors such as Amazon and Apple.

I’ve covered this saga before, and take the view that the anti-trust regulators should not facilitate Amazon’s efforts to control the ebook market with the Kindle by insisting on it being able to discount books as it wishes after obtaining them at wholesale prices from publishers.