BertelsmannPenguin Random House demonstrated once again what a cozy, fusty, highbrow, unworldly world modern publishing is by bringing home the fat juicy bacon for parent Bertelsmann. And it was all in our stars. As The Hollywood Reporter … um … reported, “John Green’s unstoppable young adult melodrama The Fault in Our Stars lifted the fortunes of German media giant Bertelsmann, which controls the book’s publisher Penguin Random House. Sales of the The Fault in Our Stars novel spiked ahead of the release of Josh Boone’s feature film adaptation … The book sold more than four million copies in print and e-book formats in North America and some 5.7 million worldwide in the first half of this year.”

The Hollywood Reporter also cites book tie-ins to Frozen as the drivers behind Bertelsmann’s revenue of $10.3 billion for the first half of 2014, “the highest level in seven years.” The Bertelsmann official release, meanwhile, noted that “Penguin Random House increased its revenues to nearly €1.5 billion [$1.97 billion] following its combination making it the world’s largest trade book publisher on 1 July 2013, and placed numerous titles prominently on the international bestseller lists.” This, incidentally, means that Penguin Random House’s approximate full-year revenue for 2014 – assuming we simply double $1.97 billion to arrive at the full-year figure – will exceed the nominal GDP of some 34 countries, including the Cayman Islands, the Maldives, San Marino, and Bhutan. And, incidentally, “Penguin Random House expanded its e-book portfolio to over 80,000 titles, extending its market leadership.”

The Bookseller quotes Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle thanking his staff in the following terms:

As we look ahead to our busiest time of year, I ask that you keep our larger purpose—the future of books and reading in our society—at the forefront of our work together. We achieved a solid first-half performance. Let us finish this year strongly by continuing to publish the kinds of books readers can’t put down, the ones they tell everyone they know about, the ones that will spark in young people the love of reading that we share.

I’m reminded of Robert Altmann’s superlative satire The Player, where reptilian fat-cat Hollywood exec Griffin Mill, who is in the business of debauching and debasing scripts to paste on upbeat Hollywood endings, murders … wait for it … a writer, and spends the rest of the movie sleazing out of the consequences and into the bed – and womb – of his victim’s ex-girlfriend. And at one point, he gets up on a podium to declare that “film is art.” Can we look forward to a Griffin Mill moment from Markus Dohle, maybe? Oh, oops, didn’t he just do one … ?


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