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Pretty Soon There’ll Be Just One Big Book Publisher Left

The New Republic: “America’s biggest, most powerful book publisher is about to get even bigger and more powerful. On Wednesday, a number of outlets reported that Penguin Random House had reached an agreement with ViacomCBS to purchase Simon & Schuster, the nation’s third-largest publisher, for $2 billion. The resulting conglomerate would publish at least a third of all books sold in the United States, and transform Penguin Random House, already a superpower, into an industry-dominating behemoth, with potentially serious consequences for authors, publishing employees, and diversity of thought. That extraordinary level of concentration will dramatically lower competition in the publishing industry, likely leading to job cuts, lower advances for authors, and fewer non-blockbuster books being published by commercial publishers. The sale of Simon & Schuster comes near the end of a strange year for the company. Carolyn Reidy, an industry stalwart and the company’s longtime CEO, died in the spring and was replaced by Jonathan Karp. During that time, S&S became the defining publisher of the Trump era, with a keen eye for well-timed blockbusters about the president, which both formed a large chunk of its revenue and resulted in serious and costly legal challenges from the Trump administration. Though major releases by John Bolton and Mary Trump helped make it profitable, Simon & Schuster was put up for sale because ViacomCBS is reorienting its business to focus on streaming and needed funds to pay down debt…

Further consolidation won’t just lead to layoffs, it will also likely put authors in a worse position, as they have fewer potential buyers to negotiate with. Though it is not solely responsible, the bottom has fallen out of the market for midlist books over the last decade, creating a system in which bestselling authors are making millions, while publishing’s middle class has been decimated. The conglomerate publishing industry’s increasing obsession with bestsellers has also left many more adventurous projects to wallow…”

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