Stephen King Testifies in Antitrust Trial Against Simon & Schuster
Stephen King is an authority on The Stand, as could be expected. Today during the antitrust trial that will determine whether two of the largest publishing houses in the nation may merge, the author testified on behalf of the government. King has publicly criticized Penguin Random House’s plan to acquire his publisher, Simon & Schuster, for $2.2 billion. The author was questioned by the attorney for the Department of Justice for around 45 minutes after introducing himself as “Stephen King, a freelance writer.” According to reporter John Maher, “I came because I think consolidation is terrible for competition.” was what he told the judge. I’ve been around the book business for 50 years, and that’s how I see it.
The biggest publisher in the nation, Penguin Random House, was created in 2013 as a result of the merger of Penguin and Random House. The DOJ contends that permitting the acquisition of Simon & Schuster would also result in a monopsony, which happens when one buyer has a significant amount of market influence. According to the court, fewer competitors for book rights would result in lower author compensation, particularly for those who receive advances of $250 000 or more for expected top sellers.
King compared the “Big Five” publishers of today — Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan — to the competitive bidding environment of his early career. He asserted that the competition for book rights has diminished as a result of the decline in publishing houses and that it is now more of an “after you. He went on to say that new authors who start out with independent publishers find it difficult to support themselves with advances, citing a 2018 Authors Guild research that estimated the typical annual income of full-time authors at $20,300.
Because enhanced efficiency would enable it to pay its authors more, Penguin Random House has claimed that the agreement would actually increase competition. Additionally, the publisher promised that following the merger, Simon & Schuster would be permitted to compete against other Penguin Random House imprints. (According to Deadline, when an outside bidder is involved, the publisher already allows internal competition.) The DOJ and its most well-known witness, however, disagree with this argument. According to King’s testimony, “You might as well say you are going to have a husband and wife bidding against one other for a house.” It’s a little bit absurd,