Publisher clients of Consortium are adopting a wait-and-see attitude regarding the acquisition of the independent distributor by the Perseus Book Group. While all have faith in the business judgment of Consortium owner Don Linn, some are worried that service will slip if changes are made. Perseus president David Steinberger said that Consortium and Perseus's CDS distribution subsidiary will focus on selling their separate fall lists before the companies look at ways they can work together.
Akashic publisher Johnny Temple expressed the mixed feelings of many Consortium publishers about the deal: "I'm both totally fine with it, and I'm also nervous." He commended Linn for improving service since he acquired the company in 2002 and said Consortium "is the distributor Akashic should be with." Temple also praised the Consortium staff, and said, "If departments are moved, if people are shifted around, I'd be really nervous."
Possible changes were also on the mind of Haymarket Books editor Anthony Arnove. "I'm concerned that the deal would change the Consortium culture. Consortium has always pledged to its publishers that it won't change its culture, but there are always financial pressures," Arnove said. Coffeehouse Press head Alan Kornblum observed that when he started Coffeehouse more than 20 years ago, small press publishing was part of the counterculture. "Now our distributor is owned by a New York publisher. It seems a little strange." Still, Kornblum said, "Don has earned my trust. If this step needs to be taken for Consortium to continue to provide services to small publishers, then I'll go where Don takes us."
Making sure the cultures of Consortium and Perseus/CDS mesh may be Steinberger's biggest challenge and similar to one faced by Advanced Marketing Services when it acquired PGW. AMS had a difficult transition following the departure of PGW founder Charlie Winton, a situation made more complicated by AMS's still unresolved accounting problems. After the departure of some key clients and personnel, PGW eventually steadied its operation under the direction of Rich Freese.
Potential corporate culture issues aside, Consortium will enjoy some important benefits by becoming part of the Perseus family, including access to CDS's specialty market sales force and to Perseus's financial resources. Steinberger sees the purchase as adding a new element to its distribution business, aimed at small and mid-sized publishers; that is not the focus of CDS, which deals primarily with larger publishers and offers a range of services. Steinberger said he expected CDS and Consortium to continue to add their own new clients, although one industry member speculated that some shifting of clients between CDS and Consortium could occur.