Arnaud Nourry, chairman and chief executive of Hachette Livre, tackled some of the big questions on the future of publishing, from self-publishing to agency pricing, to Hachette Livre's appetite for global expansion to threats to copyright, in a wide ranging session at Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club on Wednesday at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Responding to questions from journalists of six publishing trade magazines from China, France, Germany, Latin American, the U.S. and U.K., Nourry explained that when he stepped up to his leadership role, he saw that Hachette needed to expand overseas in order to produce stable growth, which it did through acquiring Time Warner. While Hachette remains hungry for small size fill-in acquisitions, especially in English-language markets, as well as Spanish-language, Nourry said that he had little immediate appetite for further large investments. Nourry named segments where Hachette could be stronger, such as nonfiction in U.S. and U.K. (Hachette's deal to acquire the publishing arm of Perseus Books fell through last year), and commercial fiction in France, saying "there are always lots of opportunities."
On the question of pricing, Nourry reiterated his support for the agency model. "Publishers should try not to undermine their price point, I was convinced of that in 2010 (when the agency model switch first occurred in the U.S.), and I am still convinced. I am very happy with the agency model." He added that in the U.S., 80% of Hachette's catalogue is sold for less than $10.
Nourry described self-publishing as "the contrary of my business. We look at books and decide what we do and do not want to invest in. Sometimes publishers are wrong, as with 50 Shades of Grey, but even in this case E.L. James wanted a traditional publisher. When print is 85% of the market, you need it. I am not competing against self-publishing and it will not change my business."
When it came to copyright, and especially potential moves by European Union initiatives which could result in a softening of copyright rules Nourry was definite: "We should defend copyright as much as we can." He continued, "My guess is that behind the scenes this is another version of the fight between some of these large U.S. companies and Europe. It's a concern."