In the current climate of book/ebook publishing, further mergers, like that of Penguin and Random House last year, should not come as much of a surprise. Yet, there's something essentially unsettling for dedicated romance readers hearing about the acquisition of Harlequin, the traditional publishing house of all things romance, who have led the way for so many years in publishing our beloved novels.
My instinctual panic aside, there's no way to say how this will play out and whether this will be a good or bad thing for romance publishing. Harper Collins and Harlequin have very different publishing styles and it's quite possible that both may build upon each others' strengths to improve in the rapidly changing publishing market place.
There's certainly no denying that Harlequin, while continuing to be the dominating publisher of romance, has struggled somewhat amongst the boom of digital publishing. I only hope that romance readers will benefit from the sale of Harlequin, with the increase in funds and support from HarperCollins, but a larger part of me fears what this may mean for the Harlequin lines and Harlequin readership under the new model.
According to Brian Murray, President and CEO of HarperCollins,"The Harlequin name and rich heritage will be preserved independently, with the aim to leverage capabilities to bring the book-reading public more choices." Hopefully Harlequin's future under HarperCollins is as bright as the inevitably positive public announcement of the sale.
What has been all the more disheartening about this news, however, is the media's response to the sale. Again, I should not be surprised, since the media's attitude of belittling romance is nothing new, but the treatment of this acquisition by news outlets has been pretty incredibly vom-worthy. Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches Trashy Books has covered this issue in her usual astuteness, asking, "do all nearly half-billion dollar acquisitions that change a Canadian company into an American subsidiary get written up as sex metaphors in The Globe and Mail?"
The answer is, of course, no. Once again we are reminded that despite being the leading genre in book sales, romance is, apparently, not worth taking seriously by the mainstream media. Why? Because, as Kat Mayo of BookThingo writes "romance fiction puts the female experience at the centre of the story." Romance writers, readers and the feminists who make up our ranks, are used to the kind of derision aimed at us by the likes of the media outlets currently belittling the importance of the News Corp acquisition of Harlequin, simply because the female experience and the nuances of female pleasure are not generally respected in our society.
Yet, this acquisition is a big deal. A $415 Million deal, in fact. And it is one that is bound to affect the romance publishing industry in one way or another.