As reported in Sunday’s Guardian, two of the U.K.’s largest bookselling chains, Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s, are set to merge, pending a potential challenge from the Office of Fair Trading and pleas from the local writing and publishing communities. Owned by HMV, Waterstone’s recently acquired its primary competitor, the 137-branch-strong Ottakar’s, for a reported £96.4-million ($193.7-million CDN). Together the stores control approximately a quarter of the British book trade and more than half of British bookstores. If publishers’ and writers’ groups get their way, the case may be sent to the government’s Competition Commission for debate. Expected fallout of the acquisition include a narrowing of the range of books easily accessible by readers, the hindered success of some would-be popular novels, a lack of responsiveness to local readers’ needs brought on by the chain’s central purchasing strategies, and a general reduction of publishers’ programs altogether.
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