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Random Penguin or Penguin House?

No, it’s not the latest cutesy Zynga game for Facebook, it’s a potential buyout.

On Thursday rumors spread from across the pond that Random House parent Bertlesmann is in talks with Pearson to acquire its publisher Penguin. Random House is already the largest publisher in the world, and for Halloween should consider dressing up like the large black hole of Publishing they’re turning in to. I kid. Kind of.

According to a statement by Pearson, “The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.” An predictably non-committal response.

But really, is this good or is this bad? I agree with the L.A. Times reporter’s anonymous agent who said, “Fewer publishers to submit to, lower advances.”

I can’t say it’s not genius from a business perspective, if I was Penguin I’d be especially thrilled, but for authors, well, they should be very wary of too much consolidation. Cue flashbacks of being shut down by the popular girl at school.

If other traditional publishers follow suite who will take the time to look for the diamonds in the rough? The genuinely great stories, the works of modern art, the real life changes? The books lacking in-your-face sex and swagger. Honestly they’re damning even more authors to the fight of their lives in the self-publishing sector.

Who knows, I’ve chatted with more than a few power players in the biz that have considered breaking out of the big six and starting something of their own – perhaps major mergers like these will be the final straw.