A Harper’s article on the publishing industry, in need of an editor even more than this newsletter is, lays out, after much circumlocution, what stopped the proposed merger of two industry giants.
The article points out that the Big Five — Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan — control “90 percent of anticipated top-seller demand.” The government relied on anti-monopoly arguments, as they applied to the bidding on anticipated bestsellers, to successfully block the proposed Penguin Random House–Simon & Schuster merger.
“The merged entity of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would command roughly 50 percent of market demand for anticipated top sellers, the government argued, and the resulting reduction in bidders would harm authors of such books via diminished advances,” the Christian Lorentzen piece notes.
“[Justice Department lawyer John] Read admitted that these anticipated top sellers accounted for only 2 percent of books published each year, but argued that they account for more than 70 percent of what Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster spend annually on advances. The Justice Department was going to bat for the top 2 percent of authors, because that’s where the money is,” he continued.
What the author highlights seems worth highlighting. So does what he fails to highlight. Note that the market share of this slain-in-the-womb publishing goliath does not come near to approaching Facebook, YouTube, or Google. They, like book publishers, fall in the information, or maybe more broadly, communications industry.
The government — in the cases of blocking Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House from merging, forcing a breakup of Ma Bell, and paring off the Blue Network from NBC (and thereby creating ABC, a competitor to NBC) — boasts a record of paying special attention to monopoly when it comes to information and communications.
Big Government pays attention elsewhere when it comes to Big Tech.
Subscribe to The American Spectator to receive the entirety of Dan Flynn’s Spectator A.M. newsletter.