10 November 2003

Harry Potter and the Antitrust Conspiracy

According to today's New York Times, R.R. Donnelly (the company that prints both the Yellow Pages and the last couple of Harry Potter books) agreed to merge with Moore Wallace, which in turn is a relatively recent merger product of Wallace Computer Systems and Moore Business Forms.

   Yawn. Why should anybody in publishing care?

   Well, leaving aside the reputation of the proposed CEO (Mark Angelson, currently CEO of Moore Wallace) as a "cost cutter," this illustrates some of the problems with both vertical and horizontal integration in antitrust. "'We print the phone bills and they print the phone book,' Mr. Angelson said in describing the logic of combining the companies. 'This is the quintessential strategic deal.'" Those who remember the shoddy quality of the casebound edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire—copies began falling apart before they had been read through the first time—and (rightly) blamed it on a printer better known for printing the Yellow Pages, catalogs, and similar works intended for occasionally browsing and short-term obsolescence (I suppose I should expect little better from Scholastic, but that's for another time) may start wondering whether there will be a bound-in carbonless order form for Book 7 in Book 6.