Writers’ Union of Canada Joins Calls for Review of Publishing Merger

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) joins its international and domestic colleagues in urging government to fully review the proposed sale of publishing house Simon & Schuster to the media giant Bertelsmann, parent company of Penguin Random House. Both publishing houses have operations in Canada, and together already represent an outsized portion of the book publishing industry here. Combining Penguin Random House Canada and Simon & Schuster Canada would create a single entity dominating Canadian publishing. 

“We’re extremely concerned about the implications for authors of such increased market concentration,” declared TWUC Chair Anita Daher. “We believe this sale will reduce the competitive opportunities for Canadian authors seeking to publish in our own country.” 

The US-based Authors Guild (AG) and National Writers Union (NWU) are urging the US Department of Justice and the new Biden administration to block the sale, saying it would dangerously concentrate “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.” 

In Canada, the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) has called on the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Competition Bureau to perform a thorough review for similar reasons. TWUC notes that Canada’s record of curtailing concentration in the publishing industry is marked by decades of failure. A number of prominent mergers and sales, including the absorption of McClelland & Stewart by Penguin Random House Canada, seem to have gone against stated federal policy about Canadian operations.   

“Market concentration at the multinational level has restricted the growth of an independent domestic publishing sector, reducing opportunity for Canada’s writers and readers,” added Daher. “Canada has seen a steep decline in author earnings over the last twenty years, resulting in large part from weak market and copyright regulation.” 

TWUC anticipates similar negative outcomes in the wake of this proposed merger. The Union urges the Minister of Canadian Heritage to tighten regulations over publishing in Canada, and to better protect the rights of Canada’s authors.  

“To be clear, we appreciate the Canadian publishing activities of both Simon & Schuster Canada and Penguin Random House Canada,” noted Daher. “We simply prefer to see them remain in competition in order to keep Canada’s publishing sector healthy.” 

About The Writers' Union of Canada:

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,200 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.

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For additional information
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
jdegen@writersunion.ca

Date: February 4, 2021