Will Hachette Be the Last Publisher Standing?

The Bookseller, the U.K.’s book publishing trade magazine, has these interesting figures showing the way the dramatic drop of 5.7 percent in overall sales in the country has allowed Hachette to increase its market share:

Victoria Barnsley was speaking as figures from Nielsen BookScan, for the first 24 weeks of the year, revealed a fall in the total value of book sales of 5.7%.

She said: “Our business needs to change, regardless of whether there is a recession or not. The economic situation has merely hurried the process along . . . To be honest, I don’t anticipate the market ever returning to pre-recession levels in its current form.”

Barnsley, whose company saw sales fall 13.3%, the largest drop among the top 10 and despite Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winner Wolf Hall, explained it had been necessary to take “a lot of cost out of the business”, including cutting the number of titles published by 20%. “We are focusing more on profit than on market share [now at 7.3%],” she said. “Most publishers over-publish for today’s market.”

Random House also suffered, with sales dropping 9.8% and market share falling from 13.1% to 12.5%—creating the greatest gap yet between it and Hachette’s increased 16.2% share.

In the United States, Hachette doesn’t have quite the same market share. But it performs better than any of the other houses because of the strengths of the Patterson and Meyer publishing franchises. As secular changes batter the industry overall, Hachette may benefit from its more efficient publishing operations—few titles that generate more sales and greater profits—to become the only vibrant, healthy publishing house.