Stephen King Testifies for Justice Department

He was star witness in publishing antitrust trial
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 2, 2022 6:40 PM CDT
Stephen King Testifies in Books Merger Trial
Stephen King autographs a book as he departs federal court after testifying for the Department of Justice, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Bestselling author Stephen King stepped up to the witness stand Tuesday in a federal antitrust trial. Tracing his own history, he laid out a portrait of a publishing industry that has become increasingly concentrated over the years while richly rewarding his creative endeavors, the AP reports. "My name is Stephen King. I’m a freelance writer," King said as he began his sworn testimony as a witness for the Justice Department. The government is bidding to convince a federal judge that the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and rival Simon & Schuster, two of the world's biggest publishers, would thwart competition and damage the careers of some of the most popular authors. King has been published for years by Simon & Schuster.

King's appearance in US District Court in Washington brought a narrative of the evolution of book publishing toward the dominance of the Big Five companies, which the proposed merger would reduce to four. As government attorney Mel Schwarz walked King through his history starting as a new, unknown author in the 1970s and his relationships with agents and publishers, King homed in on a critique of the industry as it is now. King crisply answered Schwarz's questions, with some moments of humor and brief flashes of gentle outrage, as he testified during the second day of the trial. "The Big Five are pretty entrenched," he said. King's displeasure about the proposed merger led him to voluntarily testify for the government.

"“I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition," King said. The way the industry has evolved, he said, "it becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on." King expressed skepticism toward the two publishers’ commitment to continue to bid for books separately and competitively after a merger. "You might as well say you're going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for the same house," he quipped. "It would be sort of very gentlemanly and sort of after you, and after you," he said, gesturing with a polite sweep of the arm. Attorney Daniel Petrocelli representing the companies told King he had no questions for him and demurred on a cross-examination.

(Read more Stephen King stories.)

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