The proposed deal could see the largest book publisher, Penguin, acquire Simon & Schuster, the fourth-largest company.
Best-selling horror author Stephen King testified against Penguin Random House’s proposed $2.18 billion takeover of Simon & Schuster, saying it would weaken competition in the publishing industry.
The “Carrey” and “It” author took the stage Tuesday as a government witness in an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Justice Department aimed at blocking the deal. Over the course of his career, he said, integration into the publishing industry has led to lower salaries for authors.
“It becomes difficult for writers to find enough money to live,” King testified in federal court in Washington.
If completed, the deal would see Penguin, the largest book publisher and a unit of Bertelsmann SE, acquire Simon & Schuster, the fourth-largest company. The government argues that the combination will lead to lower progress for authors and fewer choices for consumers.
King’s own books are published largely by Simon & Schuster Scribner imprint. He said he stayed with them because they published authors he liked and were “muscular” in their dealings with booksellers.
But many of King’s testimonies focus on the difficulties he depicted for lesser-known authors. He said the top five publishers had largely put pressure on independent stores, making it difficult for fledgling authors to convert them into print.
“These are the little book tournaments,” King said of independent publishers, though he added that new opportunities are emerging in TV streaming services. “The broadcast networks were a gold rush for writers,” King said.
“No, after you”
The two companies will continue the internal competition between Simon & Schuster and Penguin imprints after the merger. The king mocked this claim on the podium.
“You would probably say you would have a husband and wife competing against each other for the same house,” he said. “He will be very polite. He will be after you. No, after you.”
US District Judge Florence Bane 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 the trend of consolidation within industries.
The case is US v. Bertelsmann SE, 21-cv-02886, US District Court for the District of Columbia.