A pile of open books

“... I think consolidation is bad for competition.”

Stephen King, best-selling author of more than 50 books, in court testifying against a potential merger between the largest and fourth-largest book publishers in the country.

Published on

aug 3, 2022

Why It Matters: The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against a potential $2.18 billion merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. The basis of the federal government's case is that the consolidation would damage authors' careers, harm competition, and limit options for readers.

  • Stephen King appeared on day 2 of the trial, which is expected to last about three weeks. He has been a consistent critic of the top five publishing houses, otherwise known as the "Big Five." Last year, King tweeted, “The more the publishers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive." He noted that many of the publishers he has worked with throughout his career have since been acquired by larger publishers, which he says also makes it harder for authors "to find enough money to live on."
  • The Justice Department's Case: “[F]ewer authors will be able to earn a living from writing ... The proposed merger would further increase consolidation in this concentrated industry, make the biggest player even bigger, and likely increase coordination in an industry with a history of coordination among the major publishers,” as stated in the official court filing.
  • The Publishers' Case: “[B]y making the combined entity a stronger bookselling competitor, the merger will incentivize other publishers to compete even harder for consumer attention,” the publishers said in the pretrial briefing. One of their biggest arguments for consolidation is attributed to Amazon's increased bookselling, which makes it more difficult for publishers to compete.
  • The trial is ongoing and a decision will not be reached until November. However, the Los Angeles Times states that if the merge does happen, the combined company "would control nearly 50% of the bestseller market."

Stephen King testified against publishing’s biggest merger. What you need to know about the antitrust trial (Los Angeles Times)

Stephen King testifies for government in books merger trial (Associated Press)

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