It is a long time now since craftsmen in the trade regarded with amusement any statements suggesting that publishing was a business—publishers had considered themselves gentlemen, not businessmen, and their declared concern had been with art, not commerce. But that historic smile, however rueful it had been, has faded away. The mergers and public stock issues are no longer news, though such financial transactions are, if nothing else, the criteria of big business. Recently there have been twenty-odd mergers involving forty presses and publishing houses; in March, 1960, the month before Random House acquired Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., Publishers’ Weekly started a monthly listing of the publicly traded book company stocks that now includes 29 issues with more to come.
First the mergers: dramatic as they are in coalescing seemingly immutable and disparate sovereignties, they are only a secondary result of a deeper change. Mergers are nothing new, viz: Morrow and William Sloane Associates; Appleton-Century-Crofts (merged again with Meredith and again with Duell, Sloan and Pearce; Putnam, Coward-McCann and John Day; etc.)—nor is public ownership new: McGraw-Hill, Holt and Prentice Hall, among others, have been traded for some time. What is new is that in 1959, to every one’s astonishment, total sales of text and reference books, trade and juvenile, hard cover and soft, exceeded a billion dollars—$1,005,635,000 is the combined figure of the American Book Pu...
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