The big news in the world of publishing this week had nothing to do with Jordan Peterson. Penguin Random House, the world’s biggest publisher of consumer books, got bigger, buying Simon & Schuster for $2.1 billion in cash.
I have a few things to say about this but best to review the handwringing first.
There’s been a lot said about how the Big Five publishers, which includes the above two plus HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan, are now a Big Four and that’s a disaster for all concerned. (In the interests of time, I’m mostly going to look at this deal in an American context.)
I’ll pick on Franklin Foer at the Atlantic, only because he was more comprehensive than most who wrote about the sale.
Foer says the deal “is deplorable and should be blocked. As book publishing consolidates, the author tends to lose—and, therefore, so does the life of the mind.”
He says competition to sign writers and the size of advances to writers will shrink, making it “harder for authors to justify the time required to produce a lengthy work.”
He expects publishing to become ever more corporate, more risk-averse, and lose its sense of a higher purpose. It will become like the movie world and gravitate to sequels and established stars.