Competition authority clears way for HMV takeover of Ottakar’s

I missed this story earli­er, and it’s prob­ably oh-so old news by now, but the UK’s Competition Commission — a body that reg­u­lates mer­gers and acquis­i­tions — has judged that the pro­posed takeover of UK book­seller Ottakar’s by rivals the HMV group (which includes Waterstone’s) will not lead to reduced com­pet­i­tion in the high street. In oth­er words, they don’t reck­on that the con­sumer will suf­fer from a reduced range of books (and those at high­er prices).

Hmm.

I’m not gen­er­ally in favour of the impact of con­glom­er­ated blocs in pub­lish­ing (tedi­ous deal­ings with my loc­al Exeter Waterstone’s have been tempered some­what by cor­res­pond­ence with Scott Pack — Waterstone’s chief buy­er — who turns out to be quite approach­able and know­ledge­able; pity he’s resigned). However, I guess the proof of this pud­ding will be in the eat­ing. If the HMV group does hoover up Ottakar’s but pro­ceeds to fuck up the book-buy­ing exper­i­ence for enough people, I think that will only serve to send high street book­sellers up the same creek as high street travel agen­cies. Who pur­chases their hol­i­days in a shop these days?

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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