He knows a thing or two about the stand.
Stephen King testified against a book publishing merger that would upend the industry Tuesday in Washington, DC, in federal court.
King, 74, testified for the government in its effort to stop a proposed $2.2 billion deal for Penguin Random House, the largest publisher in the United States, to acquire Simon & Schuster, the fourth largest.
“I came because I think consolidation is bad for the competition,” King said. “It’s getting harder and harder for writers to find money to live on.”
With over 60 bestsellers including “The Stand”, “The Shining” and “It”, King will never have this problem himself. But as is typical of the eccentric horror writer, he put the general good ahead of his personal interests.
King’s works are actually published by Simon & Schuster, but he still testified against the merger. He explained how throughout his career, which began in the mid-1970s with “Carrie”, he saw big publishers take over their smaller competitors.
King’s early novels were published by Doubleday, which later merged with another company and eventually landed under the Penguin Random House umbrella. In 1986 “It” was published by Penguin, which later merged with Random House.
“The more publishers consolidate, the harder it is for independent publishers to survive,” he tweeted last year.
The American publishing industry is dominated by the “Big Five”: Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Hachette. Together they have 90% of the U.S. 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 filed a lawsuit to block the merger, as President Biden promised to fight monopoly capitalism when he took office.
“A fair, open, and competitive marketplace has long been the cornerstone of the American economy, while excessive market concentration threatens basic economic freedoms, democratic accountability, and the well-being of workers, farmers, small businesses, startups and consumers,” he wrote. in a decree of July 2021.
Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster claimed that they would continue to bid against each other for publishing rights after the merger. King scoffed at 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 joked. “That would be kind of very gentlemanly and kind of after you, and after you,” he added, waving his arm politely.
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Surprisingly, the companies’ attorneys passed on the cross-examination, allowing King to walk away without answering a single hostile question.
The trial is expected to last two to three weeks. On Monday, the CEO of Hachette editions, Michael Pietsch, testified for the government.
King has also gone out of its way to work with smaller publishers. Nearly two decades ago, small business Hard Case Crime asked King for a blurb on a book. He responded by sending the company an entire novel, “The Colorado Kid,” published in 2005.
“Inside, I was spinning the wheel,” Hard Case co-founder Charles Ardai said when King contacted him. King has since written two more books for Hard Case, 2013’s “Joyland” and 2021’s “Later.”
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, headquartered in Midtown Manhattan.
Paramount put Simon & Schuster up for sale in March 2020. The companies argued the merger would allow them to devote more resources to content and distribution.
With dispatch services