Horror author Stephen King testifies against Penguin’s $2 billion merger | News Arts and Culture
The proposed deal could see the biggest book publisher, Penguin, take over Simon & Schuster, which is the fourth largest.
Best-selling horror author Stephen King has testified against Penguin Random House’s proposed acquisition of Simon & Schuster for $2.18 billion, saying it would weaken competition in the publishing industry.
The “Carrie” and “It” author spoke on Tuesday as a government witness in the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit seeking to block the deal. He said the consolidation of the publishing industry during his career led to lower salaries for authors.
“It’s getting harder and harder for writers to find enough money to live on,” King said in federal court in Washington.
If completed, the deal would see Penguin, the largest book publisher and a unit of Bertelsmann SE, take over Simon & Schuster, the fourth largest. The government argues the combination will result in lower advances for authors and less choice for consumers.
Freelancers in a hurry
King’s own books are largely published by Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint. He said he stuck with them because they published authors he idolized and were “muscled” in their dealings with booksellers.
But much of King’s testimony focused on the difficulties he perceived for lesser-known authors. He said the top five publishers have largely crowded out independent stores, making it harder for newbie authors to get it out there.
“It’s the minor leagues for writers,” King said of independent publishing houses, though he added that new opportunities are emerging in TV streaming services. “Streaming networks have been a gold rush for writers,” King said.
‘No, after you’
The companies argue that internal competition will continue between the Simon & Schuster and Penguin brands after the merger. King scoffed at this claim on the stand.
“You might as well say you’re going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house,” he said. “It will be very courteous. It will be, ‘After you. No, after you.’
U.S. 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 has taken a tougher stance against a consolidation trend within industries.
The case is US v. Bertelsmann SE, 21-cv-02886, US District Court for District of Columbia.