Writers and readers' groups say there will be less diversity and less price competitiveness because of the merger.
The new venture, to be named Penguin Random House, will become the world’s largest publisher and control about 25 percent of all books published in the US.
The decision (about which rumors leaked last week) illustrates a growing trend in the publishing industry toward consolidation as a means to provide a more united front against the changes the industry is facing, including the rise of digital books, the growing power of web retailers like Amazon, and the erosion of traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstores.
“The consumer publishing industry is going through a period of tumultuous change, propelled by digital technologies and the giant companies that dominate them," Pearson Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino said in an email to staff, according to Reuters. “The book publishing industry today is remarkable for being composed of a few large, and a lot of relatively small companies, and there probably isn't room for them all – they're going to have to get together.”
By merging, the companies “will create a publishing giant that will have more heft at a time when the book business is being rocked by the rise of online retailers and e-books,” writes the Wall Street Journal.