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Some Small Houses See an Advantage
Calvin Reid -- 3/30/98
Although they all expressed dismay at the further consolidation of historic imprints, the reaction of some publishing executives to the Random House acquisition was mostly cheerful resignation. Many were even quick to claim a competitive advantage for smaller, perhaps more agile firms.
George Gibson, president of Walker &Co., told PW the acquisition "hurts and helps." Gibson noted that "it narrows the number of paperback houses. Now we can't submit to Vintage and Anchor." However, he said, "Agents will reach out to us. We can publish authors just as well and, in the long run, earn as much, if not more, money for their authors. We can put a lot of effort into every one of our books. Big publishers can't."

Wendy Strothman, executive v-p for trade books at Boston-based independent Houghton Mifflin, said much the same: "It's bad for American letters but, if anything, it helps us. I'm already hearing from agents. We're a manageable size and we can take risks. It's hard to fund an infrastructure that big, and I don't know how many economies of scale you can get out of publishing."

S&S's David Rosenthal, formerly publisher at Random House's Villard imprint, was blithe: "It's nice to no longer be the gorilla on the block. We seem nimble in comparison." But Rosenthal did point out "the retail marketing muscle of this behemoth. I think you're going to see retailing affected most of all." And Jennifer Moyer, publisher at Moyer Bell, a small literary publisher, agreed, "This is scary. Yes, I have benefited from conglomeration, but this is more insidious than it was 15 years ago. I don't have the retail clout of a Bertelsmann. Shelf space will be controlled by even fewer people. American culture is what I'm concerned about."

Nevertheless, Morgan Entrekin, publisher of Grove/Atlantic, told PW, "It d sn't change things for us. Sure, it differentiates the independent houses to some degree. I suppose Bertelsmann will look for some efficiencies, but I don't believe good books will go unpublished. That's the reason they bought Random House. They're not idiots. Knopf is the best publishing house in America."
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