Penguin Random House’s President and COO Madeline McIntosh: It’s Still About the Books

Regardless of changing business models, trading conditions or disruptive technologies, it’s still all about the book for the world’s largest publishing company — and for all publishers — according the Penguin Random House president and chief operating officer Madeline McIntosh.

“What makes us successful is whether or not we have the books that people want to read,” said McIntosh, speaking at the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) annual meeting in New York. “Consumers are moving around…but i have yet to see any evidence at all that what consumers are saying is that they want to move away fro the core experience of reading a book. They’re looking to us to provide them with immersive reading.”

McIntosh added later that that kind of book — long-form narrative fiction or nonfiction — makes up 70% of her company’s business.

Despite the proliferation of new media, demand for books has been resilient in the U.S. The book industry has stayed fairly static in size in the U.S. throughout the recent recession and the changes in how people consume content: about $27 billion in the U.S., according to BookStats, a joint production of BISG and the Association of American Publishers.

At the same time, book publishers have benefited from a lack of content piracy, which has plagued other industries, said McIntosh.

“We’ve been very lucky that we haven’t suffered the massive threat of piracy in the book business,” she said, comparing it with the motion picture and music industries.

McIntosh was recently named president and COO of Penguin Random House following the merger that brought Penguin and Random House together this past summer to form the world’s largest book publisher. Prior to the merger, McIntosh was COO of Random House.

Related: Book Industry Study Group Announces New Mission Statement, New Priorities at Annual Meeting

5 thoughts on “Penguin Random House’s President and COO Madeline McIntosh: It’s Still About the Books

  1. Bob Mayer

    I find it interesting that a COO would say it’s about the BOOK. That shows the reluctance of NY to accept reality.

    It’s about the STORY for novels. The MESSAGE in non-fiction. How that story or message gets to the reader is the medium and there are many beyond the book.

    This might seem a trivial distinction, but a key one in philosophy.

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  3. JC Hammond

    I agree, it is about the story, particularly if we’re talking about creating a more “immersive experience”. Reading a traditional printed book is what it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful, but only as immersive as your imagination is. Even e-books, which have more flexibility and potential from becoming immersive seem stuck in the book experience paradigm. Until publishers accept that it is about the story and that readers what to be part of that story, McIntosh is correct: It is all about the BOOK because no one is trying to make it about anything else.

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