Thursday, November 26, 2020

Book Publishing Merger Threatens Choice, Jobs, & Book Prices



Simon & Schuster, founded nearly a century ago and now a major publishing house with 50 imprints, 1350 employees, ands publishing 2,000 books annually, is about to be swallowed up by the largest publisher, Penguin Random House, for $2.2 billion.


The Big 5, which had been the Big 6 not that long ago, will now shrink to the big 4.


Such a merger clearly threatens jobs, book pricing, and free speech. The German-owned Penguin Random House could be in violation of anti-trust laws.


So why is this a bad deal for America’s consumers, employees, and writers?


Let’s start with the obvious. Any merger in any industry bleeds jobs. It’s called eliminating duplication.


Next, let’s start with book pricing. A big behemoth wields a lot of clout in the industry. It can start to dictate higher prices for its books and lower discounts to its partnering wholesalers and book stores. As it is, former President Barack Obama’s memoir was retailing with a cover price of 45. Is this the new future for books?


Now let’s move on to how this impacts writers. A bigger publisher could shun certain voices or types of books, leaving such writers out in the cold. Their acquisitions editors could decide to pay less on advances and certainly it eliminates a competitor that until now would be competing for the right to publish certain books.


As a result of fewer people and companies deciding what gets published, free speech gets impacted as well.


Simon & Schuster, owned by ViacomCBS, is the publisher of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, and thousands of best-sellers and award-winning books.


Maybe this opens the door to more acquisitions. There are many small presses out there. A smart publisher could acquire dozens of them and form a modest foe to the Big 5, soon-to-be, Big 4.


The media has end-of-the-year consolidation taking place right now. Buzzfeed is buying Huffpost. Meanwhile, a company that owns influential trade magazines Billboard, Vibe, Deadline Hollywood, Rolling Stone, and Variety, wants to buy The Hollywood Reporter. That is messed up.


Mergers have been commonplace for many decades in the book and media industries. Little good has come form such mergers. We get less competition and fewer voices calling the shots, while quality journalism and book production suffers as a result.


The book world already is down to one main bookstore chain – Barnes & noble; one main wholesaler – Ingram; and one main online retailer – Amazon. Now we are about to be down to four publishing giants.

The book publishing landscape is turning into a scene from the classic movie,  It's A Wonderful Life, where the town's richest man, a cranky, miserable, old guy named Mr. Potter, seeks to own everything and everyone. Soon Penguin Random House will own the ideas, hearts, experiences, and souls of more writers.


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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at  You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: 


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