Random House, Penguin To Merge

The parent companies of publishers Random House and Penguin have announced they are merging the two publishing companies. The joint venture will create a large and well-resourced company with the goal of remaining profitable as e-books threaten publishers' traditional business model.

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Sandy overshadowed almost everything in yesterday and put the rest of it under water. But even with a massive storm underway the publishing industry could not ignore another big story: the merger of two of the biggest publishing houses in the business. The European conglomerates that own Random House and Penguin reached an agreement to consolidate.

NPR's Lynn Neary reports.

LYNN NEARY, BYLINE: These are two powerhouses in publishing. Random House, the biggest trade publisher in the country, has one of the hottest selling titles ever on its list: the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series. And Penguin, no slouch in the bestseller department either, also has this year's MacArthur Genius Grant winner Junot Diaz in its roster. So together, Penguin Random House, as the new company will be called, will have a hefty share of the publishing market.

Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House, declined to put a value on it.

STUART APPLEBAUM: In terms of the quality of our authors, the book of theirs we treasure, you can't put a dollar figure on something like that.

NEARY: The sheer size of company will make it easier to deal with the challenge of selling lower priced e-books while continuing to bear the costs of printing traditional books.

Questions have already been raised in the media about the possibility that the size of the new company will violate anti-trust laws in this country.

But James McQuivey of Forrester Research, says that is unlikely.

JAMES MCQUIVEY: Now if the anti-trust regulators haven't been expecting this it's only because they're not paying attention. And once they get into it, they'll see that this is like so many other industries that are being changed by the digital - whether we're talking music or even accounting. I mean the mergers among companies of this size has been necessary to compete.

In announcing the agreement, Marjorie Scardino, the CEO of Pearson, which owns Penguin, said together the two companies will be able to share costs and invest more for authors and readers in the world of digital books.

NEARY: Lynn Neary, NPR News Washington.

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