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“Caught My Eye” by Katina: Everything You Need to Know About the Penguin Random House Trial

by | Aug 19, 2022 | 0 comments

Everything You Need to Know About the Penguin Random House Trial is posted on the Esquire website and is by Sophie Vershbow , a social media strategist and freelance journalist in NYC; her work has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Vulture, Literary Hub, and more. 

Last week, the publishing trial of the century kicked off in Washington, DC to determine whether Penguin Random House (PRH) will be allowed to purchase Simon & Schuster (S&S) from Paramount Global for $2.2 billion dollars. President Biden’s Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November 2021 as part of a broader effort to enhance antitrust enforcement. The DOJ is arguing that the merger “will cede nearly 50% of the market for anticipated top-selling books to the combined firm, which will harm competition by lowering author advances and diminishing output, creativity, and diversity.” In a nutshell: PRHSS (name pending) would be bad for competition, and thereby detrimental to both authors and customers.

PRH and S&S argue that combining their resources would not hurt competition and would in fact allow PRH to make higher offers overall, thus encouraging competitive advances from other members of the Big Five (well, four), as well as independent publishers like Scholastic and Workman.

During the first week of the trial (which is still ongoing), we heard testimony from witnesses on both sides, including S&S CEO Jonathan Karp, PRH CEO Markus Dohle, and bestselling S&S author Stephen King (for whom I once bought a sandwich as a publicity assistant). There were several gasp-worthy moments from these publishing power players who spilled more industry tea than at the National Book Awards afterparty. If you want to get a more granular picture of what’s going on in the trial, I recommend reading Publishers Weekly News Editor John Maher’s epic Twitter thread, which recounts a play-by-play from inside the courthouse...

Having worked in the publishing industry for almost a decade at both S&S and PRH, I’ve been wary of this merger since the news of it first broke in November 2020. Now that I’m no longer employed by one of the companies involved, I can say out loud that I hold major reservations about what it could mean for those still inside the book machine. It turns out that I’m not the only one with concerns. The publishing house employees, authors, and literary agents that I spoke to for this piece all shared feelings of uneasiness about what a PRH/S&S merger would mean both for them as workers and for the industry as a whole...”

Please click here to continue reading Ms Vershbow’s highly informative post.


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