In a Frankfurt Book Fair panel discussion with editors from five international trade publishing magazines (including PW's George Slowik), Markus Dohle, CEO of the recently merged mega-publisher Penguin Random House addressed a range of subjects, from Amazon, and e-books to the company's massive size, stressing that he is in no rush to integrate the two companies.
"We have the luxury to take time because we are bringing together two healthy, profitable, well managed properties," Dohle said. Saying the Penguin Random House team had a very clear idea of how to bring the two companies together, Dohle emphasized "quality over speed" and later acknowledged that the eyes of the publishing world were on the company. "We feel a responsibility to get this right for publishing," he said. "We don't want to mess this up, that would be bad for publishing."
Dohle noted that the company had just completed its first 100 days as a combined entity.
Throughout the talk, Dohle expressed his belief in print, and his support for physical retailers, and said the publisher needed to support physcial bookstores. He was also pressed repeatedly on his feelings about Amazon, including a question about whether PRH would follow agent Andrew Wylie's invititation to dump Amazon. Dohle did not rise to the bait, and even lauded the company.
"Fundamentally, and this was always my mantra, the relationship is about cooperation and not about confrontation," Dohle said of Amazon. "We want to reach out to as many readers as possible. Of course we have to manage each other somehow, and that's fine. But fundamentally we are aligned and the rest is about terms of sale and negotiation."
Dohle went on to praise Amazon's achievement and innovation. "We should not forget about that," he said. "Kindle has at large prevented us from piracy in the first place because they created this wonderful, very convenient Kindle system and this fantastic wifi device with a huge selection of titles and fantastic convenience to buy books. And that was sort of a gift for the book world, and the value chain of books, that they started this when the business was so small. They've brought innovation and they've grown for a reason, and I think we can grow together both domestically and internationally."
Dohle also said that the recent legal action brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against Apple and five publishers for e-book price-fixing would not prove to be a distraction, despite sanctions that now apply to PRH continuing through 2014.
"The thing is over," Dohle said. "We live in [an] 'agency lite [period].' It is a new experience. E-books are being discounted again. We try to adapt. We try to test. We try to take a very analytical approach to it. The task is to maximize the revenue for our authors going forward. And that is what we do. It is not a not a big deal for the company."