In his year-end letter to Random House employees, CEO Markus Dohle characterizes 2009 as “one difficult external and internal challenge after another.” Among these challenges, Dohle cites the recession, price wars, the company’s internal reorganization, and “wide-ranging digital publishing issues.” Despite those difficulties, Dohle also says, “Random House on a worldwide basis will improve its year-on-year profitability in 2009.”
One reason for that improvement is digital publishing, which get a whole paragraph to itself:
“Another of our year’s positive developments is how our e-book sales have increased by triple-digit percentages in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Germany. In Spain, where e-book sales are just beginning, we have joined in a consortium with our two biggest competitors for their eventual distribution. The Random House digital future is a core focus of our company’s overall strategy. Leading the industry in and gaining market share through digital publishing are the main goals of our digital strategy. If we do it right, there is no question we will greatly benefit from more digital reading by consumers.”
Frankly, there’s not much of note in the above graph. Many might argue that Random House already missed its chance to “do it right” with its backlist rights grab, but just as many would probably say the opposite–that laying claim to those rights good business.
What is worth noting is that both Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster and Dohle have emphasized the centrality of digital publishing to their respective companies–“Our priorities, however, are certain. We must focus on gaining market share, in both print and digital,” says Dohle.