The Book Industry Is Still Doomed

Shafer doubts that a Random House and Penguin merger will save the book industry:

The Penguin-Random House merger would theoretically give the new company more leverage in the pricing fights with Amazon et. al. But as important as that struggle for control might be, it still leaves Penguin-Random House operating in a moribund and hidebound enterprise that looks and acts like something out of the 18th century. Book publishers are playing against a stacked deck. They don’t own the distribution channels, they don’t own the stores, they don’t control any proprietary technologies or patents, they’re terrible at inventing new products, and the market value of their brands is dwindling. Plus, their most valuable properties, their writers, are free agents who don’t really belong to them.

This merger—and other book industry consolidation to come—is less about winning than it is losing more slowly.