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Essay/Term paper: Penguin books: introduction to modern business

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Economics

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Penguin Books: Introduction to Modern Business

The aim of this essay is to comment on how, over the last six years
Penguin Books Limited has grown and managed external and internal changes.
Sixty one years ago, Allen Lane, the managing director of the Bodley
Head, a British publishing company, revolutionised reading with the introduction
of the first ten Penguin paperbacks. Today, over 600 million paperbacks are sold
yearly. At a time when there was still little of entertainment, paperback books
brought reading to the masses. Nowadays, paperback books bring reading to the
During the last six years (1990-1996) Penguin Books Limited was faced
with many "environmentalist pressures," with a continuous change inside the
company, and competitors trying to imitate its successful innovations on both
sides of the Atlantic.
The major achievement in 1990 was the introduction of a new computer
system into several parts of the Company. The Credit Control department was the
first area and Stock Management, Invoicing Systems, Warehousing, Distribution
and Sales Services followed. Now the whole of the Company's systems are
incorporated and networked.
During this period a new lists including the Twentieth Century Classics
Series complementing the Penguin Classics, Arkana, the New Age list and Fantail,
the mass-market children's list were introduced.
Internal change that took place during that year was the closing down of
the Penguin Bookshops (that expanded to include 12 shops during the last decade),
leaving just one, the specialist Beatrix Potter "House of the Tailer of
Gloucester", within the Group. This change took place due to the fact that the
Company was conscious that it had to concentrate on the publishing rather than
on the retail.
This decision brought a successful completion of a management buy-out of
the shops. This action also compensated the loss that the Company faced in
august 1991, when Pearson (an international enterprise quoted on the London
Stock Exchange with major media interests including many well-known names apart
from Penguin, such as Longman, Pitman, Addison Wesley, the Financial Times,
Westminster Press, Mindscape, Thames TV and Madame Tussauds) announced pre-tax
profits of Pounds 40.7m for the first half of 1991- a drop of 58 per cent on the
same period of 1990. In this period books fell from a trading profit of Pounds
2.1m to a loss of Pounds 13.4m with Penguin losing Pounds 8m.
In the following two years no major changes have been recorded. Although,
1993 was generally a successful year for all Penguin group companies. Penguin UK
had produced a strong programme including some major best sellers and agreed to
a joint venture with the BBC for mass market paperbacks and film deals with two
major Hollywood studios.
During 1993, Penguin accelerated its media involvement by publishing
world-wide "The Viking Opera Guide" as a book and CD Rom.
In 1994, the publishing industry realised that certain amount of people
do choose books on the basis of who publishes them rather than who writes them.
The promotion became one of the marketing tricks used by the publishing industry
(that other industries have already used for decades). First came promotions for
individual authors and titles, in 1994 publishers took one step further by
promoting the whole brand.
This move showed the change of publishers fighting for market share.
"During the recession they increased margins by cutting costs, now they are
desperate to build turnover," said P. Mountain, deputy editor of The Bookseller
In the next months it was seen how different publishers were competing
in their own different ways. Penguin and Wordsworth Editions declared a price
war selling paperback classics for Pounds 1 each. These "up-market" or "down-
market" were the ways of selling literature.
In September 1994 Pearson brought a new change by announcing that
publishing should be grouped by theme. As the result, entertainment- Ladybird
Books, the children's publisher was added to Penguin and became a subsidiary of
the Penguin Group. As an outcome, Penguin's world-wide business showed revenues
of about Pounds 370m.
A major change took place in September 1995, when the official price-
fixing of books collapsed after nearly a century.
Penguin Books announced its withdrawal from the net book agreement (NBA),
which has restricted price competition since 1900. This took place due to the
"environmentalist pressures." As Max N. Adam, a managing director of Penguin
Books Limited , said: "We had to face reality. If books are going to compete
against compact discs and videos, we've got to have a level playing field and be
able to discount like they do."
Penguin also was celebrating its 60th anniversary in 1995 with a major
trade advertising campaign. This campaign included a publication of 60 Penguin
Sixties, small format paperbacks, at 60p each.
In the present year (1996), Penguin Company is still benefiting from
repeat contracts for Penguin mini-paperbacks.
In January 1996 another major political change took place, not in favour
for Penguin Company. A legislation was produced which revives copyright
protection to an important group of writers. This legislation meant that
publishers have to pay several million pounds to the estates of writers, who
died between 1925 and 1945. The change in UK legislation (introduced as part of
copyright laws across the European Union) was brought in in order to cover the
works which were previously out of copyright.
Taking the European Union single market that is taking place into
consideration, one should remember that "Nothing is "overseas" anymore," a
statement by Kenichi Ohmae that clearly defines the borderless condition of
current business approach. This brings up the international dimension of Penguin
- a dimension which is continually growing in importance. Overseas Penguin has
four major companies - Penguin USA, Penguin Canada, Penguin Australia and
Penguin New Zealand. Each of these companies does its own publishing but is
monitored by each other's publication programmes.
There are also several smaller marketing companies which carry stock and
consignment on behalf of the Group. These companies include Penguin South Africa,
Penguin Italia, Penguin Netherlands, Penguin Germany, etc. They do not currently
have their own publishing programmes but import from the group companies. Due to
the socio-cultural differences Penguin India, for example, operate differently
as there are import restrictions in operation and the solution is for Penguin
India to do a large amount of its own publishing. There are also resident
representatives in Hong Kong and Singapore.
On the whole, one may conclude that Penguin has grown, with the help of
acquisitions, for example, from a loss- making business with revenues of Pounds
37m to one which in 1995 had world-wide revenues of Pounds 360m and profits of
Pounds 34m, and remains one of the world's largest book publishing groups.
The result of Lane being involved in a move towards democratisation has
shown that today, hundreds of thousands of books are available to millions of
readers at a low price, and the market seems to be growing daily, selling into
more countries than any other publisher, and providing a good example of how a
company is dealing with change and success by continuing the traditions of Sir
Allen Lane.


1. Snoddy, Raymond. "Pearson profits." The Financial Times, 13 Aug. 1991, p.15.
2. Snoddy, Raymond. "Pearson rises..." The Financial Times, 03 Sep. 1994, p.9. 3.
Snoddy, Raymond. "Pearson shares fall." The Financial Times, 21 Sep. 1994, p.26.
4. Snoddy, Raymond. "Pearson buys stake in book distributor." The Financial
Times, 27 Apr. 1995,
p. 26. 5. Marsh, Peter. "Publishers face copyright disputes."The Financial
Times, 03 Jan. 1996, p. 5. 6. Fishwick, Francis. "Profits left on the shelf."
The Financial Times, 18 Jun. 1996, p. 14. 7. Snoddy, Raymond. "Mayer stands down
at Penguin." The Financial Times, 21 Jun. 1996, p. 9. 8. Rawstorn, Alice.
"Hollywood head to lead Penguin." The Financial Times, 06 Aug. 1996, p. 16. 9.
Schreuders, Peter. "The book of paperbacks." London: Virgin, 1981. 10. "Fame -
financial analysis made easy"(update 88.a-October 1996); CD Rom. 11. Rawsthorn,
Alice. "Books cartel collapses." The Financial Times, 27 Sep. 1995, p.18. 12.
Stoner, James. "Management"(sixth edition). Prentice Hall 1995.


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