Put authors, readers first in ruling on merger of big publishers

If Penguin Random House acquires Simon & Schuster, book titles such as these would be published by a single company.

Thomas Frisbie/Sun-Times

Another chapter in making life harder for authors, readers and the publishing of new ideas and voices is the last thing America needs.

The largest publisher in America, German-owned Penguin Random House, itself the product of a merger, wants to take over one of the other so-called Big Five publishers, Simon & Schuster. Authors, who already are finding it ever-harder to make a living, worry the merger will make things worse.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued to stop the acquisition, and the case is now on trial. Whatever the result, it should be based on what’s good for nurturing a wide range of voices, not corporate profits.

On Tuesday, best-selling author Stephen King testified he opposes the merger because “It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find enough money to live on.”

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Authors’ incomes already suffer from the increasingly common practice of readers buying used books online, sales for which authors get no royalties. The smaller royalties for ebooks also hurt authors, as do counterfeit copies sold online. And because publishers have a harder time making money for similar reasons, they tend to pay authors less.

Penguin Random House argues that even after a merger, authors would have a choice of publishers to approach with their book ideas. But the stories are legion of authors who were turned down for years, for …read more

Source:: Chicago Sun Times

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