How was your Frankfurt Book Fair? Penguin Random House’s was very, very good. So good, that to close the fair’s opening day, CEO Markus Dohle hosted a reception at the PRH booth in Hall 6.2 to celebrate not only the publisher’s recent success, but the industry’s resurgence.
“Many of you know that I've always been quite upbeat and optimistic, I would say realistic, about the global publishing industry and especially about our future prospects,” Dohle told staff in a 20-minute speech interrupted multiple times for toasts. And citing data over the last two years, he doubled down on a claim he first made in his 2017 Frankfurt Keynote. “This is the best time for publishing since Gutenberg.”
Certainly, Penguin Random House has reason to celebrate. The publisher continues to pile up bestsellers and literary award-winners, including Margaret Atwood, who was at the fair, and this week was named a co-winner of the prestigious Booker Prize for her latest novel, The Testaments. PRH audio continues to expand and to post massive growth. And PRH itself continues to grow, “organically, and through acquisitions,” Dohle noted, welcoming London-Based children's indie Little Tiger, acquired this spring, to “the family,” as well renowned Brazilian publisher Zahar, in a deal announced earlier this month; and from the U.S., Dominique Raccah’s Sourcebooks, which PRH took a 45% stake in this past May.
But Dohle’s speech was aimed not only at celebrating Penguin Random House’s successes, but the success of the publishing industry—an industry that started the decade on an uncertain footing amid a global recession, and a digital revolution some predicted would drag the book business down.
“Who would have thought that in 2019, 80% of our global distribution is in physical formats? And that has stabilized the entire book ecosystem. On top of that, our audience is growing every year. Literacy rates are growing, so we have more people on the planet who can read. Children’s books are going through the roof,” Dohle said. These are “the facts,” he stressed, the “truth" about the industry. “So let's change the image of this industry. This industry deserves so much better.”
Dohle closed his remarks by celebrating the important work publishers do.
“I am very optimistic, and for very good reasons,” he said. “But I also want to acknowledge that we live in difficult times, both politically, in many parts of the world, and also economically. And I want to remind all of you how important the work is that you do every day. You curate deep dives into stories, into narratives, and you bring them to market. And before that, you check the facts. And you check the truth. Which is becoming a very rare thing in today's world. Your work is perhaps more important than ever before.”