Judge blocks merger between book publishing giants

In a recent ruling, a federal judge has decided to block two notable publishing companies, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, from completing a $2.2 billion merger. On Monday, Oct. 31, the results of this trial were officially announced and received with relief from authors and consumers, but contempt from Penguin and Simon & Schuster.

The publishing companies believe this is a major misfortune for readers and writers. Still, District Court Judge Florence Y. Pan determined that this plan would ultimately lead to less competition for top-selling books. This means that authors would be offered less compensation for their work because of less major competition between publishing companies for rights to their books.

Penguin argues that the merger would not stop this competition completely and that bidding wars with Simon & Schuster aren’t as frequent as we think. They also claimed that their merger would ultimately benefit writers’ pay, allow the companies to save money and spend more on books, according to The Guardian.

Bestselling author Stephen King dismissed the claim in court saying that “you might as well say you’re going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house. It’s kind of ridiculous.”

“The proposed merger would have reduced competition, decreased author compensation, diminished the breadth, depth, and diversity of our stories and ideas, and ultimately impoverished our democracy,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said, according to BBC.

According to NPR, the Department of Justice has been aggressively enforcing the federal antitrust laws pushed by the Biden administration to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace. It’s important to prevent these kinds of monopolies because they increase the price of products for consumers while simultaneously giving them fewer options. 

It’s obvious to those against the merger that the purpose of it was financial gain and the growth of Penguin’s market share, but it’s important to resist this to preserve the marketplace of ideas.

I definitely don’t think that these companies should be merging anytime soon, and I agree that the resulting lack of competition would be terrible for writers and consumers alike. However, I think there’s a bigger issue with this merger than what’s being widely discussed. If the merger went through, and Penguin bought Simon & Schuster, they would control 49% of the publishing market, according to The Guardian. That’s nearly half of the market.

Having one major publishing company controlling almost half of global book publications would result in little diversity in what kind of books are being put on the market. In an age where the world seems to foster qualities like mass misinformation and media bias, would it really be a good idea to have one joint publishing company controlling most of the books we read? This would be culturally damaging and is definitely something that we should do our best to prevent.



Photo courtesy of Mikhail Nilov, Pexels.