Public Knowledge Welcomes Competition Win as Federal Judge Blocks Publishing Merger

Federal judge blocks the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster merger in a win for consumers.

Yesterday, a federal judge blocked the merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. The proposed merger would have created a publishing giant responsible for half of the top-selling books from the first- and fourth-largest publishing houses, further consolidating an already concentrated marketplace. The Department of Justice sued to block the merger last year in a complaint highlighting the potential harms to authors, other publishers, and readers. Public Knowledge celebrates this long overdue reinvigoration of antitrust law and enforcement in the all-important publishing industry, and looks forward to equally bold actions to free e-books and combat Big Tech dominance.

The following can be attributed to Alex Petros, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge :

“This decision marks a major win for authors, readers, and the Biden administration’s modernized antitrust enforcers. These enforcers should be newly emboldened to bring tough cases with expanded theories of harm against dominant incumbents intent on further consolidation—namely online platforms. The Biden Justice Department and Judge Pan should be commended for recognizing what many have long argued: merger harms can be far more pernicious than just short-run consumer price increases. A free and fair publishing industry is essential to both our democracy and the marketplace of ideas. Authors deserve to be paid fair value for their work and to have options of where they wish to publish.

“We cannot let this victory be the end, for both safeguarding the publishing industry and a broader competition agenda. We need to ensure that a concentrated publishing industry does not continue to withhold e-books from libraries, or only make them available under unfair contract terms. It is essential for enforcers to continue to bring groundbreaking cases and for Congress to give them the proper tools and authorities to do so. Today it is publishers wilting under Biden’s antitrust scrutiny, but would-be monopolists everywhere should be running scared.”

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