Author Stephen King testifies against merger by Penguin
on Aug 03, 2022
Best-selling horror author Stephen King testifies against Penguin Random House’s proposed $2.18 billion acquisition of Simon & Schuster, claiming this move would weaken competition in the publishing industry.
The author took the stand on Tuesday as a government witness in the Justice Department’s antitrust suit pursuing to block the deal. He said consolidation in the publishing industry over the course of his career has led to lower pay for authors.
“It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find enough money to live on,” King testified in federal court in Washington.
If completed, this deal would witness Penguin, the largest book publisher taking over Simon & Schuster, the fourth biggest in the industry. The government argues the combination will lead to lower advances for authors and fewer choices for consumers.
King’s own books are largely published by Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint. He said he remained with them because they had published authors he idolized and were “muscular” in their dealings with book sellers.
A great of King’s testimony, however, focused on difficulties he had perceived for less well-known authors. He said the five biggest publishers largely squeezed out independent shops, making it harder for new authors to make it into print.
“That is the minor leagues for writers,” King said of independent publishing houses, though he added that new opportunities were cropping up at television streaming services. “The streaming networks have been a gold rush for writers,” King said.
‘No, after you’
The companies contend internal competition will continue between the Simon & Schuster and Penguin imprints after the merger. King rubbishes this claim.
“You might as well say you are going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house,” he said. “It will be very gentlemanly. It will be, ‘After you. No, after you.’”
US District Judge Florence Pan is hearing the case without a jury. The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, comes as the Biden administration takes a tougher stance against a trend of consolidation within industries.