Back in June, I mentioned that the UK book-trade journal The Bookseller is planning to publish a book in October this year with the title Consumer Book Report.
The principal feature of this report is to be 'a comprehensive, detailed profile of the top 100 publishers' (presumably the top 100 in the UK market), together with quantitative analysis of their sales and market share; also on offer will be detailed research showing prospects, opportunities and threats over the coming years.
All of which sounds tolerably interesting: a mixture of fact and speculation. And if you go to the book's own web site, and take the trouble to register, you can get a taster of one of the company profiles; three more will be available shortly.
The first company profile is that of Pearson, one of the biggest media groups in the world. Print out this profile and it runs to two and a half pages.
To tell the truth there isn't a lot here that we haven't come across before, although in this instance all the info is gathered together in one handy package.
Pearson has three major divisions: Penguin group, Pearson Education, and the Financial Times group. Penguin imprints include Michael Joseph, Allen Lane, Hamish Hamilton, Viking, and a good few more. Between them they have 4,000 staff worldwide and published 4,000 books last year. (Altogether Pearson has 33,000 staff.) They have a 12.1% share of the UK market.
Brief mention is made of the crisis at Penguin's distribution centre in Rugby (early 2004), which caused a massive loss of sales and damaged goodwill among authors and booksellers. But again, we knew this already. Sales in 2004 were down by £54 million compared with 2003, and operating profits were down by £35 million.
None of which prevented Penguin group from having a string of bestsellers. Top of the list was You Are What You Eat by Gillian McKeith, which shifted 965,423 copies in the 52 weeks to 18 June 2005, a circumstance which illustrates the power of television. Not bad for a book which, as some nit-picking columnists and bloggers have pointed out, comes from an author whose academic qualifications and knowledge of nutrition are questionable.
So, as I say, this is all tolerably interesting. It would, no doubt, be useful to have 100 of these company profiles, plus the promised forecasting of the future, all assembled in one tidy volume, which one could draw down from the shelf as and when necessary. At £15, or even £25, I might go for it. But at the offered price of £249? Thanks, but I don't think so.
The book is not, by the way, listed on Amazon; so it's no good looking for a discount there.