Private equity plunderers want to buy Simon & Schuster

From the same parasites that infected your hospital’s emergency room and sucked Toys R Us dry.

Cory Doctorow
7 min readAug 8


A hand holding a flaming book; Nosferatu’s Count Orlock looms above the flaming pages. Image: Sefa Tekin/Pexels (modified)

I’m kickstarting the audiobook for “The Internet Con: How To Seize the Means of Computation,” a Big Tech disassembly manual to disenshittify the web and bring back the old, good internet. It’s a DRM-free book, which means Audible won’t carry it, so this crowdfunder is essential. Back now to get the audio, Verso hardcover and ebook:

Last November, publishing got some excellent news: the planned merger of Penguin Random House (the largest publisher in the history of human civilization) with its immediate competitor Simon & Schuster would not be permitted, thanks to the DoJ’s deftly argued case against the deal:

When I was a baby writer, there were dozens of large NY publishers. Today, there are five — and it was almost four. A publishing sector with five giant companies is bad news for writers (as Stephen King said at the trial, the idea that PRH and S&S would bid against each other for books was as absurd as the idea that he and his wife would bid against each other for their next family home).

But it’s also bad news for publishing workers, a historically exploited and undervalued workforce whose labor conditions have only declined as the number of employers in the sector dwindled, leading to mass resignations:

It should go without saying that workers in sectors with few employers get worse deals from their bosses (see, e.g., the writers’ strike and actors’ strike). And yup, right on time, PRH, a wildly profitable publisher, fired a bunch of its most senior (and therefore hardest to push around) workers:

But publishing’s contraction into a five-company cartel didn’t occur in a vacuum. It was a normal response to…