Books

Stephen King testifies against book publishing mega-merger

He knows a thing or two about the stand.

Stephen King tested against an industry-shifting book publishing merger on Tuesday in Washington, DC, federal court.

King, 74, testedified for the government in its effort to stop a proposed $2.2 billion deal for Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the US, to acquire Simon & Schuster, the fourth-largest.

“I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition,” King said. “It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on.”

With over 60 best-sellers including “The Stand,” “The Shining” and “It,” King will never have that problem himself. But as is typical of the eccentric horror author, he put the general good ahead of his personal interests.

King’s works are actually published by Simon & Schuster, but he is tested against the merger anyway. He discussed how throughout his career, which began in the mid-1970s with “Carrie,” he’s seen big publishers snatch up their small competitors.

King’s first novels were published by Doubleday, which later merged with another company and eventually landed under the extensive Penguin Random House umbrella. In 1986, “It” was published by Penguin, which later merged with Random House.

“The more the publishers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive,” he tweeted last year.

The US publishing industry is dominated by the “Big Five” companies: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Hachette. Together, they take up 90% of the American book publishing market, and King described them Tuesday as “pretty entrenched.”

The proposed merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would give the new company nearly half of that market. The Justice Department sue to block the mergeras President Biden had promised to fight against monopoly capitalism when he took office.

“A fair, open, and competitive marketplace has long been a cornerstone of the American economy, while excessive market concentration threatens basic economic liberties, democratic accountability, and the welfare of workers, farmers, small businesses, startups, and consumers,” he wrote in a July 2021 executive order.

Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster claimed that they would continue bidding against each other for publishing rights after the merger. King mocked the idea Tuesday 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 quipped. “It would be sort of very gentlemanly and sort of after you, and after you,” he added, tossing in a polite sweep of the arm.

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Surprisingly, the companies’ attorneys passed on cross-examination, allowing King to step down without answering a single unfriendly question.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks. On Monday, Hachette publishing CEO Michael Pietsch tested for the government.

King has also gone out of his way to work with smaller publishers. Almost two decades ago, the smaller company Hard Case Crime asked King for a blurb about a book. He responded by sending the company a whole novel, “The Colorado Kid,” published in 2005.

“Inside I was turning cartwheels,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai said of when King contacted him. King has since written two more books for Hard Case, 2013′s “Joyland” and 2021′s “Later.”

Both Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are themselves subsidiaries of multinational conglomerates. Penguin Random House is owned by the German company Bertelsmann. Simon & Schuster is controlled by Paramount, which is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.

Paramount put Simon & Schuster up for sale in March 2020. The companies have argued that the merger would allow them to pour greater resources into content and distribution.

With News Wire Services

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