The past many days has been filled with news about changes at some of the largest players in the publishing industry. It is difficult to remember such a short span of time having such a large impact on the marketplace.
First there was the story about Microsoft taking a stake in B&N’s Nook and college textbook businesses. While this may well be the case of two drowning people (MS’s non-Windows business and B&N’s non-bookstore business) grabbing a hold of each other for comfort, it is certainly something to watch.
The end of May brought us the end of the 30+ year career of Chuck Follett. While this has been known for months, it finally did happen. Most recently, Chuck was President and CEO of Follett Corporation. Follett is one of the largest content retailers and wholesalers. Their various divisions interact with approximately 1 in 3 students in America.
Then there was the next spin of HMH’s Random-Wheel-Of-Bankruptcy. This was is more of an interesting car crash story than one of a NASCAR race winner. So a third (fourth, fifth?) group of investors now holds what is left of two storied publishing houses. Sadly, every major move since River Deep’s first idea about starting this whole mess has been more tragic than the last. Even more sadly, I can’t weave any story that has this working out well for anyone.
This week brought us the news that Macmillan is both starting sort of a rapid-publishing textbook company (Palgrave Pivot) and going on an Ed_tech buying spree through an entity called Macmillan New Ventures. At least they are no sitting idly by and watching everyone else have all the fun.
Just this morning, I saw the news that CENGAGE (I admit to never liking or understanding that name change) is about to undergo a top level makeover. In what appears to be an effort to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titantic, out goes the CEO and the Chairman. They are being replaced by…by…oh no wait nobody knows. We can all feel comforted in the notion that Cengage said the publisher “is in the advanced stages of a search to identify” Dunn’s replacement. From the sound of things, this could make for some compelling Reality TV. Alas, I’m not sure how one should run a business.
I have no predictions to make about any of this since these moves are all at once glaringly obvious and absolutely opaque. One thing that we can be sure will happen. More moves will be made and many of those will be reversals of what we have seen recently.
Here's to hoping for better news to come.