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Weekly News Digest

August 23, 2022 — In addition to this week's NewsBreaks article and the monthly NewsLink Spotlight, Information Today, Inc. (ITI) offers Weekly News Digests that feature recent product news and company announcements. Watch for additional coverage to appear in the next print issue of Information Today. For other up-to-the-minute news, check out ITIís Twitter account: @ITINewsBreaks.

CLICK HERE to view more Weekly News Digest items.

A Roundup of DOJ vs. PRH Coverage

The trial between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Penguin Random House (PRH) to block the publisher’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster (S&S) came to a close on Aug. 19. A decision isn’t expected until the fall, but in the meantime, you can read up on the trial coverage, including from the Related Articles at the end of this Digest. The following are some recent articles of interest.

Annika Barranti Klein writes in “PRH WTF: The Weirdest Quotes From the Penguin Random House Trial” for Book Riot, “The trial began [Aug. 1], and journalist John Maher has been live tweeting it. Although I highly doubt that anything I have to say about [it] could possibly be more amusing/infuriating/damning than the statements themselves, I do hope to provide a service in A) saving you the time of reading through the thread if all you want is to be enraged, and/or B) amusing you.”

Exemplifying how mainstream news from the trial has become, Esquire published “Everything You Need to Know About the Penguin Random House Trial” by Sophie Vershbow, which calls it “the publishing trial of the century” that provided “several gasp-worthy moments from [the] publishing power players who spilled more industry tea than at the National Book Awards afterparty.” Vershbow continues, “The publishing house employees, authors, and literary agents that I spoke to for this piece all shared feelings of uneasiness about what a PRH/S&S merger would mean both for them as workers and for the industry as a whole.”

Margot Atwell, executive director and publisher of Feminist Press, offers an independent publisher perspective for Literary Hub in “The PRH Trial Has Revealed a Barely Hidden Scorn for Independent Publishers.” She writes that “independent presses publish books in the same landscape as larger publishers, where Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and others already benefit from substantial economies of scale and bargaining power with printers, customers, and more—an advantage which this merger would increase even further.” In addition, Atwell shares the following:

One thing that’s especially galling is that independent presses often lack the money to provide authors with higher advances because we take risks on work that is more experimental and pushes boundaries—books written by writers who are BIPOC, trans, queer, disabled, neuroatypical, immigrants, or in other ways marginalized by mainstream society and mainstream publishing. We often publish work that has less obvious ‘commercial appeal’ to serve our missions and enrich the literary landscape. Then, Big 5 publishers take that enrichment literally, cherry-picking talented and newly visible writers off indie lists and winning them away with more money but not always more support for their work.

The New York TimesElizabeth A. Harris, Alexandra Alter, and Adam Bednar weigh in with “A Trial Put Publishing’s Inner Workings on Display. What Did We Learn?” They write:

The government sued to stop the deal on antitrust grounds, saying it would diminish competition among the biggest houses and push down advances for some authors. Bertelsmann, the parent company of Penguin Random House, argued the deal would bring its supply chain and distribution muscle to a longer list of authors, to their benefit, and that the industry is large and varied, made up of many important players beyond the biggest firms. Judge [Florence Y.] Pan expressed skepticism of several of Penguin Random House’s main arguments.

Beyond the legal debate, the three-week trial offered an unusual glimpse into the world of publishing, offering observers a parade of high-profile publishing executives, agents and authors speaking frankly and on the record about how books are made.

The Bookseller posted a wrap-up of the trial from Mark Chandler, “DoJ Says PRH and S&S Merger Will Create Duopoly as Trial Over $2.2bn Deal Concludes.” Chandler states, “On the final day of a three-week trial in Washington DC on 19th August, lawyers for PRH and S&S defended the merger, arguing it would actually increase competition and claiming the US government had not proved it would create significant harm. Both sides will now present post-trial briefs before Judge Florence Pan makes a final verdict later this year on whether the merger should be blocked.”

And of course, Publishers Weekly has a webpage aggregating its comprehensive coverage of the trial:

Send correspondence concerning the Weekly News Digest to NewsBreaks Editor Brandi Scardilli

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