Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pearson; Bertelsman, Random House, Quills

Pearson buys Apple “PowerSchool”Pearson has agreed to purchase the Powerschool school information system (SIS) which manages student records including attendance and grades from Apple Inc . This represents a solid strategic move into school administration tools in a core education market for Pearson. As more details become available it will be interesting to see how Pearson integrates content onto the IPOD platform which is assumed to be part of this deal. One could assume under Apple this development work must be significantly underway and will gain greater urgency with a clear path available to the Pearson content.

Bertelsman buys back stake:As reported earlier this week, Bertelsmann did the expected and purchased the 25% stake owned by Groupe Bruxelles and thereby avoided an IPO. The amount paid $5.8bill was on the high side of expectations. Financial markets had generally anticipated this would be the outcome and therefore there was minimal impact on their debt pricing. Some debt agencies have indicated they may reduce their ratings and are reviewing the deal accordingly. It is doubtful this deal will materially impact the Bertelsmann investment and product development cycle. As noted in earlier releases the company is selling its stake in BMG Music Publishing.

Random House, Starbucks and RabbitsThe two companies have announced that Starbucks will sell newly issued copies of the Velveteen Rabbit and The Night Before Christmas audiobooks. The titles will be exclusively available at the end of August for four months at the coffee stores.

Analysts’ Positive View of Educational Publishers.

Quills Awards:Further information has been announced on broadcast dates and benefactors of the Quills foundation. The awards will be held at the Natural History Museum on October 10, 2006

Bloomsbury has bought drama publisher Methuen:

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The News:

Bonnier on Shopping Spree:
Swedish publishing company Bonnier has announced it is working with Admediapartners to acquire media assets in the US. The company is a $2.5 billion dollar family owned company operating in 22 countries. In the US they are using as their base World Publications LLC a publisher of niche specialty magazine titles in which they have purchased a "major interest" from Boston Ventures.

ABE Books Buys a Library:
ABE books have purchased a web site devoted to book lovers who want to actively manage their book collection. Since the site launched last year they have signed up over 35,000 members. There are two tiers of membership (free and not free) and there is some functionality at the free level but only for a maximum of 200 titles. It is not clear if all the members are paying; nevertheless, the site does represent a cheap way to catalog your book collection, match it against other collections and mingle with other book lovers. I plan to give it a go (luckily I have a bar code scanner). What is also useful about sites like these is that they can serve as a digital archive of your collection if something catastrophic occurs (Fire, Water, both).

Also of note is the announcement that ABE purchased Fillz a book order and inventory management site earlier this month and the acquisition of Alibris by a private equity firm (Oak Hill Partners) which they say will enable them to contine to actively investment in the company.

Will it read like a Press Conference?
Senator Chuck Schumer and Rodale announced he will publish a book about democratic policies and strategies for publication in early 2007.,6597,5-106,00.html

New York's Village Voice on book retailing.
In May 22rd edition of the VV, they report on the state of US book retailing.,collins,73282,10.html

Steve McQueen:
Long missed Steve McQueen may soon have his dream movie production hit the big screen as noted in the New York Times earlier this month. The article centers around a collection of diaries and albums that the actor created to document and detail the movie he wanted to make in the dunes of Mexico. What is not mentioned in the article is whether there are any plans to publish the albums which are apparently very detailed. I suspect someone reading the article had the same thought I had. The article written by Paul Callum (May 15, 2006) is now archived on the NY Times site.

Ottakar's Looking for the Exit:
I didn't think Ottakar's would disappear and perhaps if the market in the UK for retailing had been stronger perhaps they would have remained independent; however, it looks like HMV will absorb Ottakars at a much reduced price to the one they agreed last year. HMV are being cagey about when they might bid and there is some speculation that WH Smith may also jump in. Smith's may do this but it would only be to muddy the waters; there would be limited synergy between WH Smiths and Ottakars and Smiths' have more than enough problems as it is.

Monday, May 22, 2006


A National Language.

The country is at war, universal healthcare is a joke, no one has a solution for the immigration "problem" and the economy may be in the crapper, but all this is on the back burner because we spent half of last week debating the designation of English as the national language. Hooray for our venerable Senate leadership! When our public high schools continue to under-educate the young and 'native' young english speaking students can't read or write, our Senate is busy trying to eliminate the 'press two for Spanish' option. Where is the focus on what is really important? Cynicism dictates that this initiative is just another highly effective ploy to direct the citizenship to an attention grabbing flag waiving topic so we miss the real lack of attention and effort directed at what should be really important. To me, it is just further confirmation of our political leaderships' continuing lack of initiative and confusion on how to deal with the immigration 'problem' and all the other major issues impacting the country today. Deflecting attention by suggesting a national language or assigning an inadequate contingent of National Guard troops to the Mexican border sounds good but won't fix the problem at hand. There was also talk about making understanding of English a pre-requisite to citizenship which sounds practical but isn't and anyway all citizens know that to excel in the US they need to learn English. Hey, if we are going to pre-qualify our immigrants screw English; how about chemistry, electrical engineering, software engineering or physics!

There is a Satan!

Apparently, there were strong feelings at this years Eurovision Song contest (aka The Competition Taste Forgot) where the entry from Finland boldly banished the mousy teeny bopper bubbly pop music in favor of some fun loving satanic inspired metal. Hard to believe this didn't start as a bar bet over the winter solstice but nevertheless against the odds and calls for their banishment the Finns won the contest. I want to know how they would have stood against such prior winners as ABBA - perhaps a battle of the bands would solve it. On the other hand, will we witness the Broadway hit musical Lucifer Now! sometime in the next ten years? During a pre-finale interview the band - in full regalia sitting beside a hotel pool in Athens asked the interviewer to hurry the questions because they were freaking hot in their outfits. This I found amusing given who some thought they represented. They refuse to remove their outfits and {presumed} make-up in public and as a result no one has seen who they are. (There was probably a group of Finish postal workers suspiciously missing from work last week).

Here they are in all their finery thanks to youtube:
Doubtful I am looking to buy the album...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The News:

Attorney General: Jail the Reporters!
Our Attorney General believes the courts have the right to prosecute reporters for publishing secret material and information. Speaking on This Week he indicated that it was a possibility but further stated that it was up to Congress - which is a bit of a cop-out since he's the one doing the indicting. This story is covered extensively.

VNU: Under new Ownership.
It is no doubt a relief to the management and employees of VNU that the venture capital backed acquisition of the company has been completed. As the dust settles, it will become clearer how much of a distraction this has been to management over the past 12 months reflected in potential asset sales, management changes and potentially more acqusitions down the line. Having completed this very large buyout, it also raises a question whether other venture capital deals will be struck with some of the other large information and content business.

Bertelsmann in Public Offering:
The date by which Bertelsmann will have to decide whether to proceed with the offering forced on them by their Belgium partner is approaching. My money is on it not happening.,,1780128,00.html

China and Electronic Content
An interesting although short story in the Shanghai Daily speaks of a rapid rise in the comfort level with online books and articles. Perhaps this is no real story; however, like the generation jumping that took place with mobile phones versus land line phones in developing nations like China could we be witness to a similar trend for publishing. Admittedly there has been a lot of traditional publishing in China for hundreds of years but it is the US and European content the population craves and this material may be available only in digital form thereby forgoing the print format. Link:

Duggan moving on From Disney:
Disney has appointed R. Russell Hampton as President of Disney Publishing. This is the licensing arm of Disney Publishing and doesn't impact Hyperion.

BISG Annual Sales:
There are too many reports attempting to document the size of the US publishing marketplace. Last year, under the guidance of Jeff Abraham, BISG set out to take a new look at the manner in which data was compiled and the constituency represented in the sales data reported. The BISG reports had remained static for many years and it was about time that this revision was done. The results were extraordinary in that the surveys BISG compiled resulted in the addition of $8.0 billion to the generally accepted market value of the US publishing industry. The methodology stands up although there is some debate as to whether there is any double counting if the 'under the radar' numbers are added to the traditional sales numbers. This year BISG has combined what were essentially two reports last year into one. I believe BISG will continue to make progess in the next few subsequent reports that will address the remaining veracity issues and that we will end up with vastly more accurate data versus what has been available over the past several years.

Starling Laurence
Interesting article about the editor in chief of W W Norton.

AMS hires Gary Rautenstrauch.
I recall a personal call from Philip Blackwell to tell me he had hired Gary to run their US operation based in Oregon - that was in November and things change fast. Gary is now the 'safe pair' of hands to get AMS back on the right track.

Starbucks and Books:
Author tours and promotions, in store sales and events and of course coffee. What could be better? Will thier own publishing program be far behind?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Watching the News

I watch a lot of news; NY local news, NBC, BBC, Local NJ news and Jon Stewart. Virtually without fail each evening we ask ourselves while watching the BBC news 'was this even mentioned on NBC'. It is readily apparent to me that the US news - in this case NBC - is bland, bias and boring. That is not to say the comparison - in this case the BBC - doesn't have its faults but we used to watch the network news for the broader view point and a bigger national and international perspective but network news just doesn't cut it. Routinely, the BBC news will have deeper analysis and reportage about US relevant issues - particularly the situation in Iraq and will also offer perspective and insight on stories domestically - New Orleans and the illegal immigration situation. In contrast NBC and the other networks are the comic book version of the news, providing glossed over stories, bland reporting and limited coverage.

Perhaps the strangest confluence of news stories this week, Newsnight with Jon Stewart did a story on illegal border crossings from Canada to the US and interviewed some poor misguided gent who singlehandedly is holding back the tide of illegal Canadian migrants (hockey players?). In the nature of Comedy Central this was conducted tongue in cheek but in a similar vein, the BBC interviewed a similar gent earlier this week from the South who was just as hard to understand and just as confusedly dangerous.