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American Booksellers Opposing Penguin Purchase of Simon & Schuster

The American Booksellers Association is calling on the Dept. of Justice to investigate the “antitrust implications” of Penguin Random House’s proposed purchase of Simon & Schuster, one of its primary competitors in the book publishing industry.

“On November 17, I sent a letter to the Honorable Joseph Simons, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, to express ABA’s concern about the antitrust implications of a potential Simon & Schuster sale to Ingram, Amazon, or any of the “Big 5” publishers,” said ABA CEO Allison Hill. “I explained that the consolidation of publishing that this sale could represent threatens to undermine competition in the book industry, harm the interests of American consumers, and put bookstores and authors at risk.”

Penguin announced last week it intends to purchase its rival for $2.175 billion from ViacomCBS) after winning a bidding war against HarperCollins.

As earlier reported in TLL, the agreement will essentially merge two of America’s largest publishers and increase Penguin’s dominance in the North American industry.

“Simon & Schuster aligns completely with the creative and entrepreneurial culture that we nurture by providing editorial autonomy to our publishers, funding their pursuit of new stories, ideas, and voices, and maximizing reach for our authors,” said CEO Markus Dohle in a letter to Penguin Random House (PRH) employees. “We recognize—and our success has demonstrated—that collaboration makes us all stronger, and by bringing Simon & Schuster onto our global platform, we will be able to connect their authors and books with even more readers.”

But the ABA argues the deal puts far too much power in the hands of a single publishing house, to the detriment of authors and readers.

“The announcement today that Penguin Random House, the biggest of the “Big 5” publishers, is buying Simon & Schuster is alarming,” said Hill in a letter to members. “As the dominant player in the publishing industry, PRH’s purchase of another “Big 5” publisher, further reducing the market to the “Big 4,” will mean too much power over authors and readers in the hands of a single corporation.

“ABA will be calling on the Justice Department to challenge this deal and to ensure that no further consolidation of power be allowed in the U.S. book publishing industry.”

Hill also quotes an analysis by Open Markets Institute Executive Director Barry Lynn, who also opposes the deal. “Bertelsmann’s plan to take control of Simon & Schuster poses multiple dangers to American democracy and to the interests of America’s authors and readers,” Lynn said.

“By bringing three of the big six publishers under one roof, the deal will concentrate vastly too much power over the U.S. book market in the hands of a single, foreign-owned corporation. The deal will make it harder for authors and editors to attract the support they need to research, write, and prepare the sorts of books Americans need to address the many serious political and economic crises we now face. It will also threaten the ability of independent booksellers—who are already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and other pressures—to stay in business.”




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