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Publishing News: A Year in Review

By Megan Whitlock


2022 has been a turbulent year for the publishing industry, with recovery from the pandemic coupled with strikes and a growing recession. In this article, we summarise some of the top stories from this year in publishing.


Perhaps one of the largest disruptors in the industry this year comes from Penguin Random House’s attempted acquisition of Simon & Schuster and the subsequent court case involving the Department of Justice that captured global media attention. The case saw star witnesses, such as Stephen King, take a stand and raised much debate over publishing monopolies and the purchasing powers of the Big Five houses. It was deemed as a high-stakes case for the Biden administration, who wished to make an example of cracking down on major competition-threatening mergers such as these (known as antitrust laws). The proposed acquisition and trial eventually came to a head in November, when the courts blocked the $2.18 billion merger.


In other news, publishing unions took action in 2022, most notably HarperCollins US, who have been on strike for the latter half of this year fighting for better pay and working conditions. The strike followed eleven months of negotiations, a one-day strike in July, and finally a 95.1% authorising vote in October (The Guardian). This action is just one part of an industry-wide discussion about burnout, untenable conditions and high turnover, which has been exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis. Meanwhile, in the UK, publishing houses, such as Verso, have seen successes, having unionised and gained acknowledgment from Verso Books back in July.


As well as disruptive action, this year has also seen a return to the status quo for many pre-pandemic events such as the London Book Fair, which returned in-person this spring for the first time in three years. The Fair welcomed over 15,000 attendees from more than a hundred countries (The Bookseller), though was forced to defend its COVID-19 precautions after criticism over a spike in cases after the event. Nevertheless, the return of in-person events, networking and collaboration opportunities was a welcome development for many.


Overall, the year has set an interesting precedent for business in a world still recovering from the pandemic, and it will no doubt be interesting to see where the industry develops next going into 2023.

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