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What Does the Consolidation of the “Big Five” Book Publishers Mean?
A book is a seemingly simple object, but the words inside have the power to temporarily transport, inspire, educate and entertain readers. Books aren’t just enjoyable — they’re powerful. While you can probably name some of your favorites, can you also recall the book publishers that printed them? These days, it’s more likely than not that your favorite novel or memoir was published by one of the “Big Five” book publishers — HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House or Simon & Schuster.
Lately, there’s been a trend toward consolidation in publishing, with these large publishing houses buying up smaller ones. HarperCollins, for example, recently acquired Harlequin. Back in 2013, Penguin and Random House, once separate entities, merged into one publishing house , sending shockwaves through the industry.
But all of this consolidation impacts every facet of publishing, from authors to booksellers to indie presses to readers. Here, we’re taking a closer look at how this trend will reshape the publishing landscape.
What Are the Big Five Book Publishers?
Hachette Book Group is the third-largest educational and trade publisher in the world. Although it’s headquartered in Manhattan — like many publishers — it’s also the largest publishing company in France. Like most big-name publishers, Hachette has many imprints — a trade name publisher that reaches a target audience — under its umbrella.
As you may recall, back in 2014 Amazon announced it would no longer accept pre-ordered Hachette books and stopped discounting the publisher’s titles, further shaking up the industry.
Scottish brothers Alexander and Daniel MacMillan founded this publishing company in London in 1843. A few of MacMillan’s publishing divisions and imprints include Swoon Reads, Flatiron Books, St. Martin’s Press, Tor Books, Tor Teen and Guinness World Records.
MacMillan’s imprints do a great job of illustrating the way imprints target certain demographics and genres. Swoon Reads, for example, publishes teen romance, while Tor focuses on fantasy and science fiction novels. St. Martin’s Press, on the other hand, is a publishing division that focuses on trade fiction — books marketed for a general readership — as well as nonfiction titles.
Penguin Random House
Penguin Random House’s formation in 2013 signaled a time of huge change in the publishing industry. The merging of two of the world’s largest publishers has to count for something, after all. But it seems the company’s desire to gobble up the competition hasn’t faded. In November 2021, The New York Times reported that Penguin Random House planned to purchase Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS. The merger was valued at a whopping $2.175 billion .
As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Penguin Random House over its bid to acquire Simon & Schuster, citing antitrust laws — statutes designed to protect consumers from predatory business practices, all while ensuring fair competition. After all, two of the Big Five merging together would make for a mega-publisher — and that would certainly give Penguin Random House more control over the industry as whole.
Simon & Schuster
A subsidiary of Paramount Global, Simon & Schuster was founded in January of 1924 by Richard L. Simon and Max Lincoln Schuster. In 1939, the pair backed the founder of Pocket Books, the first paperback publisher in the U.S. A few years later, in 1942, they launched the Little Golden Books series. Today, Simon & Schuster imprints include Baen Books, Pocket Books, Scribner, Atheneum, Pimsleur Language Programs and Simon & Schuster Audio, among others.
The world’s second-largest consumer book publisher, HarperCollins, has been around since 1817. Back then it was known as Harper & Brothers , but it soon became Harper & Row. Finally, in 1989, the publisher settled on the name HarperCollins. In 2014, HarperCollins acquired the romance publisher Harlequin and acquired HMH Books & Media, which was a division of Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt , which is perhaps best-known for publishing textbooks.
In July of 2022, employees of HarperCollins in New York City participated in a one-day strike. The workers, from across the publisher’s departments, have been bargaining for a union contract since December of last year. Their aims include more equitable pay and salaries, a commitment to diversity and union security rights.
Notably, the publishing industry is not very diverse at all; the racial disparity that existed decades ago is still prominent, with some rightly calling the field “unbearably” white . After all, editors and other decision makers at publishing houses are effectively gatekeepers — a lack of diversity on that end can ultimately impact who gets published.
Moreover, the industry as a whole is known for under-paying workers , especially those in entry-level roles, which makes it hard for folks without other financial means to hold these jobs and climb the ladder. Again, this all affects what stories make it to the page.
HarperCollins list of authors is more impressive than its union track record, and includes Neil Gaiman, Michael Crichton, Terry Pratchett, J.R.R Tolkien, Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. The company also publishes big-name works, such as Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman ; Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars ; and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events . In addition to Harlequin, HarperCollins’ umbrella includes Walden Pond Press and Clarion Books, among others.
How the Consolidation of the Big Five Affects the Publishing Industry
As mentioned above, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) sued to stop Penguin Random House from purchasing Simon & Schuster in 2021, citing antitrust laws. The DoJ only intervened after six writers’ groups and a nonprofit organization sent a letter, which stated that the purchase would diminish competition and drive down advances for authors, thus impacting who could afford to publish their manuscripts.
Feeling a little lost? Try thinking of the publishing industry in these terms: an indie publisher is like a small town that’s located near a big city (a.k.a. a Big Five publisher). While the small town has all the basics, it may not have everything you need, so maybe you take a trip to the city. While you’re there, though, you might as well grab some groceries and get lunch from a chain restaurant. Of course, your small town has a grocery store and restaurants, too, but the city was just more convenient.
In one scenario, the city might grow outward, acquiring the small town and replacing the locally owned stores with bigger chains. A second scenario, though, might see more and more people leaving the small town for the city altogether. With less support, small-town businesses might shutter, driving even more folks away in a vicious circle.
In both scenarios, the bigger entity — here, the city — wins by eliminating the competition. Both acquiring the town and luring consumers away are tactics that bolster the behemoth and crush the small businesses. In a sense, a mega-publisher would cause the same issues, making it challenging for indie publishers, booksellers and writers to not only be treated equitably, but have a fighting chance.
How Does the Big Five Publisher Consolidation Impact Indie Publishers, Writers and Booksellers?
When more and more publishers and booksellers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers, booksellers and writers to survive. While the Big Five aren’t true monopolies, they still have the means to make the publishing landscape unlivable for indie publishers. This, in turn, limits competition when it comes to acquiring authors and their works.
More consolidations within publishing would drive down author advances, thus limiting who has the time and resources to write and publish a book. Not to mention, if the Big Five were to consolidate further, fewer people would have the power to decide what gets published. This, in turn, impacts market trends and who gets to be represented in the stories we all read.
Agents and acquiring editors might ignore books from underrepresented groups — BIPOC, queer, trans and disabled authors, for example — in favor of a “safe bet”, which is either an author with a preestablished platform or fanbase, or someone who’s stories fit the mold. This would dilute the types of stories being published and exclude the voices we need to hear from most. Not to mention, those pay gap issues would likely persist with less competition and less open roles, furthering the harm caused to workers and writers.
And, as you might imagine, less competition — and a handful of behemoth mega-publishers — could have lasting effects on booksellers and consumers too, namely in terms of access and pricing. All of this to say, it’s important to keep in mind who’s controlling — and publishing — the stories we buy. You may never have paid much attention to the publisher’s name on your favorite book’s spine before, but, maybe, you will now.
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Five Pieces Of Equipment You MUST Have To Be A Book Maker – And One That Is Essential!
by Deborah Corn | Creative , Digital Print , Print Services , Printers , Publishing , Tips , Tools , Training | 8 comments
By Francis Atterbury
Some time ago, I took the decision not to buy or own manufacturing equipment for making our books. I’m not against being a bona fide printer; I have owned and run print shops before. But unless you are in a ‘dead’ industry like letterpress where 1950s equipment represents the best it will ever be, the need to invest and keep up to date means the equipment tends to drive the sales. I wanted to make our books the way I wanted, to the standards I wanted and not to be deflected by the need to meet monthly repayments or utilisation targets.
Although you can make great books entirely by hand (like, for example, Book of Hours , made c1330AD), some equipment is helpful for speed and accuracy, and this is the basics of what we use. It is a fundamental tenet of our philosophy that technology must maintain or improve standards and so everything we use, any change from the proven technology of the past, is judged against that criterion.
click on images to enlarge
1. A Computer running Photoshop. You can’t just receive an image and press ‘print’.
When you shift from one medium to another (screen to paper) or one scale to another (art on the wall to art on the page), colour and perceptions change. It’s important to try and understand these shifts and translate them into the visual language of print. Photoshop gives you the tools to do this.
2. A Monitor. You don’t have to have an expensive monitor, just a consistent one.
The human brain is not very good at remembering, with any accuracy, specific colours, but it is brilliant at detecting difference. We use a basic Eizo monitor because we can get close to the dull, lack of brightness that is printing on paper. We are looking for problem colours, colour shifts and issues around brightness and clarity especially when we shift from RGB to CMYK colour space. When we get an image, we look to see what is important in it and try to create and maintain a sense of difference and structure. For instance, working on an image, perhaps you are unable to recreate the exact shade of green in a tree. This isn’t necessarily a problem, the eye is unlikely to notice the wrong green; it will, however, notice differences in the shades of green within that tree. You need to recreate the difference, not the exact colour, because the difference is what matters.
3. A Press. Because you do have to print something.
In the mid 2000s I spent time researching all our options for printing, looking at using both digital and offset litho printing. I wanted to print our books on uncoated paper, and so that ruled litho out on quality as well as cost. I’m not saying you can’t print litho as well as digital on uncoated papers, but it is more difficult. As for digital, although some other digital presses delivered superficially better results with zero intervention to the files, only the HP Indigo allowed full flexibility on colour intervention, printing on any stocks, with finer screens, special colours and mixed grain directions. In other words, it behaved like a conventional press. It is capable of printing some of the most delicate, bold, dramatic or sublime colour. The HP Indigo’s colour rivals gravure at its best while the text is so black it could be an impressionless letterpress.
4. A sewing machine. If you want the book to open flat and to last then you have to section sew.
Although you could sew everything by hand, our bindery uses a Muller Martini semi-automatic sewing machine, which was supplied by Oscar Friedheim so long ago that they can’t find any record of it. On the other hand, there is more kit coming onto the market, such as the Smyth F3088 with Digital 88 front end feeder. However, the cost of this type of automation is high and needs to be weighed carefully against your own utilisation. Ultimately, all that matters is clean sewing, not too tight and without broken threads.
5. Foil blocking press.
Artisan Books have a standard label that obviates the need for blocking on the face or on the spine but still needs a plate marked area created to recess it. Foil blocking presses are necessary in any bindery. If you are foil blocking, the best results will always be from brass rather than magnesium dies. The strength of brass allows for no shoulder and gives a very sharp and crisp line. It will last for many more impressions than magnesium and, although that may not be an issue in a short run, brass will always look better.
6. A Kettle. A print job without a cup of tea is unthinkable.
I personally like Yorkshire Tea. Teabags are fine but it really must be brewed in a pot. The pot must be warmed and I don’t want to get into an argument, but I always put the milk in first. No sugar. Local and ethnic variations on this custom are quite acceptable.
To make one last point, I remember one of the most beautifully printed books I have seen was made in 1975 on Monadnock paper on an office Xerox. It looked wonderful, was black only and the printer had to polish the glass before each impression. The point being, printing is not just about equipment; it is to do with attitude and expectations too.
Stay tuned for a series of posts and videos about custom bookmaking from our friends at Artisan Books and connect with them on Twitter @ArtisanBook and Facebook !
Read more about how HP is Powering Up Publishing!
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I want to own micro industry which can make exercise books what kind of machines required?
Lots of answers for that… size of book, will all the pages be the same in them or personalized/customized… how many are you going to be printing, colors, finishing… hard cover/soft cover … all play a part in the press decision.
I thank you for the encouragement!!This information has helped me tremendously to move forward in the process.
Hi, thanks for this insightful article. I’m currently looking into what it would take to set up a press and be able to print and bind small runs of books. I’d be fine starting in black and white and I’m not too picky on format at this point. What’s a good à next step for me to figure if I have the budget? Thanks !
Connect with Martin Pugh on LinkedIn… he is my short-run go-to for all things bookbinding! https://www.linkedin.com/in/martin-pugh-48504631
This was extremely helpful! Thanks a lot!
Thank you for this! When I realized I wanted to own my own publishing company, I wrote down my expectations and such, name for the business and what I’d like to focus on, to start – then I went online filed for the LLC, applied for my EIN, setting up my website and social media pages now. I’m really looking forward to all of this. In a couple months I’ll be launching my website and a few months after that, I’ll be releasing my first novel. 🤩 And I hope to do the same for many other Individuals
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What is a book printing machine.
Book printers come in all shapes and sizes, so they can be used to print book items. In terms of aesthetics, the book printers come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and can all be used for book printing.
Book printers come in various forms and sizes, depending on their function. There are also different book printers available such as paper book printers, silk book printers, and screen book printers.
Paper book printing machines
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Paper book printing machines are a great option to mass-produce your business's books in paper, as a paper book printing machine, that allows your customers to print the perfect design for their brand or event. These paper book printing machines are great for all-around and end-to-end uses, and paper book printing machines.
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Grand Rapids l Okemos l Ann Arbor l West Bloomfield
Schuler Books Your Local Independent Bookstore Since 1982!
Schuler Books Presents the Espresso Book Machine
The greatest demand for our Espresso Book Machine has come from authors interested in our self-publishing services. We have more than 150 self-published works in our Catalog. Among them, Garbio by Larry VanderLeest, featured on NPR, Rhetoric And Representation in Nonfiction Film by Carl Plantinga, which we have shipped to colleges and universities all over the world (Canada, Europe and Australia), and Dante's Dance , a biography of Pastor Dante Venegas, by Jackie Venegas and Chris Meehan, our local bestseller. One of our favorites is The Book of Explosions by the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center, a collection of stories and poems written by young authors (ages 6-16) living in Grand Rapids, MI. Another favorite is I Am Special and So Are You , a collection of drawings and inspirational texts written by the students from the Camp Fire USA Schools of Hope (all proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Helen DeVos Children Hospital.) Whether you have written a novel, a collection of poems, a family genealogy, a cookbook, a memoir, or a dissertation, you are able to get printed copies of your book thanks to the flexible and affordable self-publishing services we now offer. If you have any questions regarding the EBM, the availability of a print-on demand or out- of-print title in the machine database or our self-publishing services, please contact us at [email protected] or call Pierre at (616) 942-2561.
The Book of You
Every life is full of stories. One of the best gifts you can give yourself or those you love: your family’s stories in a book to share for generations. Choose a package, or contact us for a customized package.
Publish your own family history book
How to get started.
For more information about our self-publishing services, please check the following PDFs:
- Self Publishing Services
- Publishing Packages
- Submission Guidelines
- What Our Authors Say
- Family Stories Info
Download a blank book block template 6" x 9" - Microsoft Word (DOC) template
- Casemaking XXL System
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A White Paper
How Digital Hardcover Bookbinding Can Lead to New Business
By Denis Wilson, Editor-in-chief of Book Business and Publishing Executive
Digital printing has come a long way. Though early applications were often crude and expertise sometimes lacking, digital printing took off in some niches where the technology and the market demands aligned, such as in photobooks and on-demand self-publishing. Today, a technology that initially gained a lot of traction among those outside the traditional printing industry has evolved to become another weapon in the commercial printing arsenal. As quality has improved and costs have decreased, digital printing is now finding wider applications, especially in the book-manufacturing sector.
As editor-in-chief, Denis analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the publishing industry and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times have published Denis’ work.
“Our yearbook sales are as strong as they’ve ever been. Students tweet, text, and Snapchat, but see that as a very temporary thing. When it comes to reading, many kids I talk to overwhelmingly prefer a real book in paper, which is so different from all their media experiences.” Kevin Bond, New Trier High School yearbook adviser
View the pdf article, by clicking here
Making a Case for Digital Hardcover Binding
Digital book printing has almost exclusively produced perfect-bound paperback books, but new markets are opening up for high-value, hardcover digital books, books that function as gifts, keepsakes, and mementos. Case binding has often been thought to be out of reach of most digital book printers, but today’s digital case binding systems can bring high-quality and high-value print books in-house, without breaking the bank or your staff.
Richard Romano is a freelance writer and consultant for the graphic communications industry and frequently contributes feature articles, news stories, and special research reports to WhatTheyThink , the leading news and information portal for the graphic arts industry.
Romano is a former writer and senior analyst for The Industry Measure , for which he writes market research reports on various aspects of the graphic arts, printing, and publishing industries.
Romano is the co-editor, with his father Frank Romano, of The GATF Encyclopedia of Graphic Communications, a compendium of more than 10,000 graphic arts terms published in 1997 by the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation.
How to Hardcover Bind on Small Perfect Binders By Werner Rebsamen, Professor Emeritus RIT
- Lock Binding Book Block – Werner Article
ODM Brochure – ‘Photo Books Made Simple with ODM Case Binding System’
Photo books are the next generation of photo albums for the digital imaging photo finishing industry.
- English (USA)
- English (UK)
ODM Pamphlet – ‘A How-To Guide on Hard-Cover Bookbinding’
Lock Binding Gadget
Cover Dewarper (Straightener)
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A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk.
A book is a seemingly simple object, but the words inside have the power to temporarily transport, inspire, educate and entertain readers. Books aren’t just enjoyable — they’re powerful.
When opting to self-publish, choose to do the entire process using an application or use the services of a self-publishing company. E-book Self-Publishing Applications Self-publishing a book gives an author complete control from start to fi...
TIANSE Binding Machines, 21-Holes, 450 Sheets, Comb Bind Machine Book Maker.
1. A Computer running Photoshop. You can't just receive an image and press 'print'. · 2. A Monitor. You don't have to have an expensive monitor, just a
SelfEspress℠, the online self-publishing site for the EBM
DB-450 2021 Hot Selling High Quality Publishing Book Cutting Machine Copy Paper
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This is the step by step process that I use to manufacture perfect bound books in my print shop. Starting from Adobe Indesign
The patented Espresso Book Machine® (EBM) makes a paperback book in minutes, at point of need. Through its EspressNet® digital catalog of
Book Printing Machines manufacturers & suppliers ; Special Paper · Fourdrinier Wire; Paper Thickness : ; Double Faced · 2 Colors; Anilox Roller :
These books are indistinguishable from paperback books produced by major publishing companies.
By Denis Wilson, Editor-in-chief of Book Business and Publishing Executive.
Digital Printing Institute VD320III · POSITION MACHINE LJ-308A · SPS Printing Systems Vitessa XP 1 · Newfoil Machine LTD 2500 · Printing International OXALATE PI/