On Tuesday, the United States Department of Justice sued to prevent Penguin Random House from acquiring its publishing rival Simon & Schuster in a $2.18 billion deal that would have seen America’s largest publisher grow significantly larger. Penguin Random House is already the result of a merger between Penguin Group and Random House in 2013; if the Simon & Schuster purchase were to go through uncontested, the U.S.’s big-five publishers would become only four, with Penguin taking up a more outsize share of the market than it already does. The New York Times reports that this lawsuit is in line with President Biden’s aggressive position on enforcing antitrust policies, having stacked the DoJ, the FTC, and his own special counsel with anti-big-tech thought leaders critical of Amazon and Facebook.
“Post-merger, the two largest publishers would collectively control more than two-thirds of this market, leaving hundreds of authors with fewer alternatives and less leverage,” reads the suit from the DoJ. If Penguin Random House bought Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS (which is still looking to sell), it could lead to a chilling effect on bidding between imprints when books sell at auction, which could negatively impact authors. Simon & Schuster, which has a multi-book deal with New York Magazine, currently boasts best sellers including a Rupi Kaur collection and memoirs from Stanley Tucci and Tori Amos. Some of Penguin Random House’s current best sellers include a John Grisham novel and Carla Lalli Music’s cookbook.