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Pretty Soon There’ll Be Just One Big Book Publisher Left

Pretty soon there'll be just one big book publisher left. When I read these words I didn't want to believe it. With the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by Penguin Random House shows that the industry is headed toward a monopolistic singularity. NewRepublic.com has the story. Read on ...


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America's biggest, most powerful book publisher is about to get even bigger and more powerful. On Wednesday, a number of outlets reported that Penguin Random House had reached an agreement with ViacomCBS to purchase Simon & Schuster, the nation's third-largest publisher, for $2 billion. The resulting conglomerate would publish at least a third of all books sold in the United States, and transform Penguin Random House, already a superpower, into an industry-dominating behemoth, with potentially serious consequences for authors, publishing employees, and diversity of thought. That extraordinary level of concentration will dramatically lower competition in the publishing industry, likely leading to job cuts, lower advances for authors, and fewer non-blockbuster books being published by commercial publishers.


The sale of Simon & Schuster comes near the end of a strange year for the company. Carolyn Reidy, an industry stalwart and the company's longtime CEO, died in the springand was replaced by Jonathan Karp. During that time, S&S became the defining publisherof the Trump era, with a keen eye for well-timed blockbusters about the president, which both formed a large chunk of its revenue and resulted in serious and costly legal challenges from the Trump administration. Though major releases by John Bolton and Mary Trump helped make it profitable, Simon & Schuster was put up for sale because ViacomCBS is reorienting its business to focus on streaming and needed funds to pay down debt.


In a somewhat surprising twist, many in the industry were rooting for the other known bidder for Simon & Schuster—the Rupert Murdoch–owned HarperCollins—to acquire the publisher, in the hopes that it would create more competition for Penguin Random House. That Murdoch is seen as something of a savior says a great deal about the widespread fear of Penguin Random House. Not only will the acquisition expand the number of titles PRH puts out, it will expand its already extremely powerful distribution network. (Simon & Schuster serves as a distributor for a number of outside publishers, most notably Skyhorse.)


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