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For Immediate Release

Contact

Jackie Filson, filson@openmarketsinstitute.org, 202-909-1098 x 1005

Press Release

The Open Markets Institute, the Authors Guild, and Six Writers Groups Urge Biden Administration to Block Bertelsmann Takeover of Simon & Schuster

The takeover threatens free speech and democracy and is illegal under the Clayton Act.
WASHINGTON -

The Open Markets Institute, the Authors Guild, and six other writers associations representing thousands of book authors this morning sent a letter calling on the Justice Department of the new Biden Administration to move immediately to block the private conglomerate, Bertelsmann, from buying the book publisher, Simon & Schuster.

The proposal, which would cost Bertelsmann $2.2 billion, would merge Simon & Schuster with another Bertelsmann-owned publisher, Penguin Random House. It would bring well more than half of many key U.S. book markets under the control of a single corporation. The Horror Writers Association, National Writers Union, Western Writers of America, Romance Writers Association, Novelists, Inc, and Sisters in Crime also signed the letter.

From the letter:

Power over the purchasing decisions of America’s readers, the livelihood and liberty of expression of America’s authors, and the viability of America’s independent bookstores is already far too concentrated. [T]oday [b]ook publishing is dominated by five corporations, with Bertelsmann already in a dominant, position, with twice the U.S. sales of the next largest publisher Harper Collins.  We understand that if the acquisition of Simon & Schuster goes through, the combined company potentially will have more U.S. revenues than the next three largest publishers in the U.S.—Harper Collins, Hachette, and Macmillan—combined. At the same time, the retail end of book sales has been all but monopolized by a single corporation, Amazon.

“From the days of Tom Payne’s Common Sense in 1776, independent book publishers have served as key guardians of American democracy. Every American should stand opposed to the letting a  single corporation concentrate so much power over what is published in our nation, and so much power over the independent book sellers who serve our communities,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Open Markets Institute. “Even without this takeover, power over America’s authors, editors, and readers is already way too concentrated. This is especially true at the retail level, where Amazon not only enjoys monopoly power over the industry, but routinely abuses that power to manipulate the interaction between the author and reader in America. The time has come for law enforcers to do their job, and rebuild an open and competitive marketplace for books. Our democracy hangs in the balance.”

Read the full letter here.

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The Open Markets Institute works to address threats to our democracy, individual liberties, and our national security from today’s unprecedented levels of corporate concentration and monopoly power. By combining policy, legal, and market structure expertise with sophisticated communications and outreach efforts, Open Markets seeks not only to hold today’s monopolies accountable for abuse of power, but to rebuild an economic system where progress is easier to achieve, because power is far more widely and equitably distributed

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