January 23, 2022

SPARC Urges U.S. Dept. of Justice to Block McGraw-Hill Cengage Merger

UPDATE August 17, 2019 Boston Textbook Publisher’s Merger Faces Antitrust Criticism (via Boston Globe)



Today, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) submitted a detailed filing to the U.S. Department of Justice urging federal antitrust enforcers to block the proposed merger between college textbook publishing giants Cengage and McGraw-Hill Education. The merger would create the largest publisher of college course materials in the United States and the world’s second largest education publisher overall.

“The merger would decrease competition, increase prices, and lock students into digital courseware that can gather vast amounts of their data,” said Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education for SPARC. “It flagrantly exceeds market share thresholds established under federal antitrust law. The textbook publishing industry engaged in unsustainable pricing for decades at the expense of students, and eliminating competition adds insult to injury. This merger should not be allowed to proceed.”

SPARC’s filing lays out how the merger would violate the Clayton Antitrust Act, creating a combined company that would control 45% of the college textbook market. Along with Pearson, which currently holds approximately 40%, this merger would consolidate the textbook market in the hands of only two players—remaking the market as a duopoly.

The merger has raised alarm bells across the education sector, with opposition also being voiced by student governments and consumer organizations.


“This is a clear-cut case for antitrust enforcement,” said Robert H. Lande, Venable Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, a former official at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and an antitrust expert who advised SPARC pro bono on the filing. “DOJ has an obligation to defend competition in the market, which would be of tremendous benefit to college students across America.”

“For over 20 years, SPARC has advocated for policies and practices within the federal government, states, and higher education institutions that advance more open systems of sharing knowledge,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “This Department of Justice filing is an important extension of that work.”

Direct to Complete SPARC Release

Direct to SPARC Complete Filing
20 pages; PDF.

See Also: SPARC McGraw-Hill/Cengage Merger FAQ

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.