Nine months after the merger of two of the biggest names in the publishing world, stakeholders and industry watchers may have their first good idea of what to expect from the newly created book giant Penguin Random House (PRH). The company released the results of its 2013 fiscal year, and the details paint a rosy picture for investors, even while executives say there is a lot of work left to be done merging the former Penguin and Random House business operations.
The powerhouse publisher, the majority of which is owned by German media company Bertelsmann, reported a combined revenue of 2.7 billion euros—just over $3.7 billion U.S. Those consolidated sales represent a full year of sales for Random House, and half a year of sales from Penguin, which joined the media group officially in July of last year, following months of speculation and planning. That represents a 23.9 percent increase over Random House’s previous year’s revenue, but when adjusted for currency and portfolio effects, it represents a dip from a very strong 2012 driven by the popular Fifty Shades of Grey series. Nonetheless, the Fifty Shades trilogy continued to drive the bottom line. It sold seven million more copies in 2013, thus topping the company’s biggest new release of the year, Dan Brown’s Inferno, which sold almost six million copies in English-language territories in seven months. During the reporting period, the Group sold more than 100 million ebooks worldwide, and more than 77,000 titles are now internationally available in digital form.
These numbers were music to the ears of PRH CEO Markus Dohle.
“This impressive performance was even more remarkable during what was such a transformative year for Penguin Random House, and the publishing industry in general,” Dohle said in a statement accompanying the release. “Looking at our histories, it seems that change has been business as usual for us: adapting to change, but also shaping change and, better yet, driving it. In our ever-shifting marketplace, and as a result of the merger, change will continue.”
Those changes will center on finding parts of both publishing house that can be made stronger through combination, said Random House vice president of communications Stuart Applebaum, pointing out that those amalgamations are already underway. “In the last nine months, we’ve unified the senior sales leadership of Penguin Random House, and we’ve brought together some of our support systems and unified them,” Applebaum told Library Journal. Those are the kind of operations that will continue to be combined as the two houses learn to live together in coming years.
On the publishing end, though, readers can expect a steady course from both Penguin and Random House. “Most importantly, we have kept our publishing divisions and imprints autonomous and independent, as we stated form the very beginning of the merger,” said Applebaum. “The decision about which books to publish and how to publish them is totally that of the publishers and editors.”
Librarians can also expect to keep working with individual representatives for Penguin and Random House. While there are places to find synergy between the programs, Applebaum stressed that the relationship between Penguin and Random House library programs would be one of collaboration rather than integration.