Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Hachette gives Europe to UK

The latest salvo has been fired in the territorial battle between the US and UK over who gets to sell their books in Europe (one would have thought the Europeans may wish to choose but surprisingly no-one seems to be asking them). In an act vividly described by one irate European distributor as 'an unheard of act of self-castration,' global behemoth Hachette has decided that its UK subsidiary will supply European booksellers, which means Hachette's US books must be supplied out of the UK. Interestingly, HarperCollins' Brian Murray (whom many readers will recall used to head HC's Australian operation) is taking the contrary view. 'When HarperCollins controls world rights and there are US and UK editions available, we offer both editions to readers in the EU,' he told Publishers Weekly, 'because we believe it is in the best interest of our authors and our customers to do so.' Elementary logic would suggest Hachette and HC can't both be right. There's a certain irony about all this, isn't there? The very market forces that have driven the internationalisation of the book trade and the rise of the global giants is tugging at the fabric of our industry's rather cosy territorial copyright arrangements. It will be interesting to see how long we can continue to have our cake and eat it too. Meanwhile, across the Tasman in the 'open market' of New Zealand, the sky has not fallen in. It seems, miraculously, that booksellers base their decisions on who they buy from based on service, price, product quality and range rather than what where the supplier's warehouse is. Why would anyone see value in denying them that right?

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