There are five big publishing houses in the United States right now, and one of them, Penguin Random House, wants to buy Simon & Schuster, one of its most robust rivals, for $2.75 billion dollars. But that presents a problem, says U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. He said the merger would create a “publishing behemoth,” in a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.
“Books have shaped American public life throughout our nation’s history, and authors are the lifeblood of book publishing in America. But just five publishers control the U.S. publishing industry,” the statement read. “If the world’s largest book publisher is permitted to acquire one of its biggest rivals, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry. American authors and consumers will pay the price of this anticompetitive merger – lower advances for authors and ultimately fewer books and less variety for consumers.”
Penguin Random House has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The DOJ statement also pointed out that the publishing industry is already highly concentrated. The “Big Five” give authors the best chance to become bestsellers. It continues by saying:
“The complaint alleges that the acquisition of Simon & Schuster for $2.175 billion would put Penguin Random House in control of close to half the market for acquiring publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books, leaving hundreds of individual authors with fewer options and less leverage. According to its own documents as described in the complaint, Penguin Random House views the U.S. publishing market as an ‘oligopoly’ and its acquisition of Simon & Schuster is intended to ‘cement’ its position as the dominant publisher in the United States…. Simply put, if Penguin Random House acquires Simon & Schuster, the two publishers will stop competing against each other. As a result, authors will be paid less for their work. Authors who are paid less write less, which, in turn, means that the quantity and variety of books diminishes too.”