In Canada, the Association of Canadian Publishers is opposing the Penguin Random House's acquisition of Simon & Schuster. The ACP, which represents approximately 115 small to medium-sized English-language Canadian publishers, published a letter last week calling on the Canadian government to scrutinize the proposed merger for antitrust issues.
"S&S and PRH, which operate in Canada as Simon & Schuster Canada and Penguin Random House Canada, already enjoy significant competitive advantage in the business," said the letter. "A combined S&S/PRH would overshadow all other companies active in the Canadian market. This would be particularly challenging for the independent Canadian-owned sector, which competes with multinational publishers for authors, media coverage, retail shelf space, and staff. A combined S&S/PRH will make these challenges even more acute."
Kate Edwards, executive director of the ACP, said, “It is impossible to imagine how a combined S&S/PRH will have a positive effect on the Canadian book business or benefit Canadian readers. Canadian authors will have fewer houses to present their manuscripts to, jobs will inevitably be lost as operations are combined, and S&S/PRH will have greater ability to demand even better terms of trade with retailers and suppliers."
The merger, Edwards continued, will make the culture of blockbuster publishing more entrenched. She added: "All of this will increase pressure on independent presses who already struggle to compete in a concentrated market dominated by large global companies. Independent publishers do this while engaging readers in creative and innovative ways, and while continuing to invest in Canadian writers—particularly new and emerging writers—whose work is central to their publishing programs.”
The letter argues that Canada's Competition Bureau and Department of Canadian Heritage, the government ministry overseeing culture, has an obligation to review the merger under the country's Competition Act and other affiliated government agencies as it is likely to diminish competition in the market. Canada has several foreign ownership regulations specifically created to protect indigenous cultural industries.
Penguin Random House Canada is the largest trade publisher in Canada and has been operating in the country since 1944, initially as a distributor (under the name Random House) and began publishing books in 1986. It has since acquired several other publishers, including McClelland & Stewart, of which it took full ownership in 2012.
S&S first expanded into Canada in 2002 when it acquired the Canadian distributor Distican, but it initially agreed to limit its operations in Canada to sales, marketing and distribution of its own products and distributed lines. It won approval from the Canadian government to launch its own list of books in 2013.
Both companies are members of a rival publishing association, the Canadian Publishers Council, which represents the largest Canadian multinational publishers. It has yet to release a statement.
At the time of publication both PRH Canada and S&S Canada were contacted for comment but had yet to reply. This article will be updated as necessary.