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CIBA: Canadian indie booksellers blame Amazon for forcing PRH/S&S mega-merger

The Canadian Independent Booksellers Association has released a statement expressing concern over the proposed sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House’s parent company, Bertelsmann. News of the $2.175 billion U.S. sale broke on Nov. 25.

CIBA, a newly formed industry association which launched earlier this year, tempered its critique with sympathy for any party that hopes to compete against Amazon. “Any industry that consolidates to the point where only one or two players control the majority of supply naturally reduces the competition that otherwise fosters innovation, improved efficiency, selection, and price sensitivity,” CIBA said in a statement.

CIBA noted, however, that Penguin Random House has been a supporter of independent booksellers since the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013. “This latest purchase of another large publisher, Simon & Schuster, appears to be a continuation of what is required to keep Amazon in check,” the statement continued. “However, this cannot be healthy for a cultural industry that needs an abundance of creativity and less focus on the battle for profits between two global giants. Perhaps a retail book market not dominated by Amazon would lessen the need for consolidation and encourage smaller publishers to stay in the game, independently.”

The sale of Simon & Schuster to Bertelsmann is subject to regulatory approval but is expected to close in the second half of 2021. The Association of Canadian Publishers has called on the Competition Bureau and the Department of Canadian Heritage to review the deal, arguing that it would put independent Canadian presses at an unfair disadvantage.