This week, book trade publications reported that Ingram Content Group has made “a tentative offer” to buy the retail wholesaling operations of Baker & Taylor. Reports of the proposed deal first appeared in Shelf Awareness on Tuesday, December 4, followed by a report in Publishers Weekly the same day.
According to reports, representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have interviewed members of the book industry about independent booksellers’ use of wholesalers and, in several cases, indicated that the interviews stemmed from an interest by Ingram to buy Baker & Taylor, which is owned by Follett. The investigation indicates that one or both of the parties had approached the FTC to see whether it would object to the proposed deal on antitrust grounds.
The reports raise concerns for independent booksellers, since such a deal would mean that the industry would be left with only one national wholesaler.
Responding to this possibility, ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, “To our knowledge, there has never been an instance in the book business when the elimination of competition — and a further concentration of decision-making in fewer hands — has worked to the advantage of booksellers, publishers, or authors, let alone the reading public. We hope these reports prove to be untrue.”
The booksellers with which Shelf Awareness spoke expressed similar concerns. One bookseller stated, “The diminishment of wholesale options is something indies would not like to see.” Another pointed to the fact that Baker & Taylor had increased its presence in the trade book market in recent years and, as such, its loss in the market would surely be felt.