U.S. files antitrust suit to stop major book publisher merger

The U.S. Justice Division is suing to dam a US$2.2 billion ebook publishing deal that will have reshaped the trade, saying consolidation would damage authors and, in the end, readers.

German media large Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random Home, already the most important American writer, needs to purchase New York-based Simon & Schuster, whose authors embrace Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from TV and movie firm ViacomCBS.

The Division of Justice filed an antitrust go well with in federal court docket in Washington, D.C., Tuesday within the first main antitrust motion by the Biden administration. The division stated the deal would give Penguin Random Home “outsized affect” over which books are revealed within the U.S. and the way a lot authors are paid.

“If the world’s largest ebook writer is permitted to amass one among its greatest rivals, it would have unprecedented management over this essential trade,” Legal professional Normal Merrick Garland stated. “American authors and customers can pay the worth of this anticompetitive merger — decrease advances for authors and in the end fewer books and fewer selection for customers.”

The acquisition of Simon & Schuster would cut back the so-called Massive 5, which dominate American publishing and embrace HarperCollins, Hachette Ebook Group and Macmillan, to 4.

As a result of it targets the costs paid to authors in addition to these paid by customers, the go well with reveals a attainable new route for the antitrust regulators underneath the Biden administration, recommended Daniel Crane, a regulation professor on the College of Michigan who focuses on antirust.

“There is a need to assume very comprehensively about all of the pursuits that could possibly be harmed,” he stated. “It raises plenty of fascinating questions on publishing and about competitors in publishing.”

The federal government’s case addresses a traditional market of 5 mammoth old-line publishing homes. Overshadowing it’s Amazon, which created an empire and ecosystem of digital books beginning again in 1995, controlling not solely the bookstore but additionally the dominant units for studying e-books and listening to audiobooks, and finally a few of the content material. The e-books undercut the costs of standard books, offering ammunition to the publishing homes in asserting that they should bulk as much as survive the competitors.

The deal raised concern from writers and from rival publishers. The Authors Guild has stated it opposes the acquisition as a result of there can be much less competitors for authors’ manuscripts.

Rupert Murdoch’s Information Corp, which owns HarperCollins and had reportedly additionally been fascinated by shopping for Simon & Schuster, additionally slammed the deal. Its CEO Robert Thomson stated final fall that Bertelsmann was “shopping for market dominance as a ebook behemoth.”

In an announcement, Penguin Random Home and Simon & Simon & Schuster stated they’d combat the lawsuit. They are saying blocking the deal would hurt authors.

“DOJ’s lawsuit is flawed on the information, the regulation, and public coverage,” stated Daniel Petrocelli, Penguin Random Home’s lawyer. “Importantly, DOJ has not discovered, nor does it allege, that the mixture will scale back competitors within the sale of books.”

The brand new antitrust go well with alerts that the Justice Division “is prepared to make use of its full authority to fight the wave of consolidation swallowing the American economic system,” stated Sarah Miller, government director of the American Financial Liberties Venture, a corporation that advocates for presidency motion towards enterprise focus.

“This case additionally displays how Amazon’s dominance looms as a predatory presence for many corporations within the economic system,” Miller stated in an announcement. “The CEOs of the primary and quantity three publishers brazenly sought to make use of this merger to develop into an `distinctive companion’ to Amazon.”


AP Nationwide Author Hillel Italie and Enterprise Author Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

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