Has Scholastic ever been the target of an antitrust suit?

Most of us (in the USA) probably remember the Scholastic Book Club/Book Fairs in our schools as kids—you would either order children’s book titles from a catalogue (the Book Club) and receive them at school a few weeks later, or buy them in person at an annual Book Fair. Those who currently have children in elementary school are no doubt intimately acquainted with them. (Some of my relatives complain about the “junk”—the non-book toys and merchandise—that Scholastic also sells via these avenues; they resent having their children marketed to like that while at school.)

But I’m curious: Has Scholastic ever been the target of an antitrust suit for their fairly monolithic chokehold on our nation’s schools? I know of no serious competitor to them (though, to be fair, some schools set up book fairs using only local booksellers; I’ve heard of no real national competition), they market to a captive audience of minors in public schools, and they are ALSO a publishing house, not merely a retailer. Seems like a lot of risks they’re running there… Have they ever been challenged?

This doesn’t exactly answer your question, but I remember seeing two or three different catalogs we could order from when I was a kid. The company names were similar but not the same. Sorry my vague anecdote isn’t clearer, but it was a long time ago.

I’ve never heard of it.

Scholastic is far from a monopoly – there are hundreds of children’s books publishers in the US. And while Scholastic features their own books, they also sell books by other publishers in their book clubs and fairs (just a quick look indicates they sell Corduroy in their current catalog, which was published by Viking Press). SBS might license editions for their clubs (like BOMC), but they act as a distributor for multiple publishers.

I don’t know of anyone else doing book fairs or catalogs, but this may merely be because no one wants to sell their books that way.

Well, all the catalogs have different names.

Right now, they are called:

  • Honeybee
  • Firefly
  • SeeSaw
  • Lucky
  • Arrow
  • TAB
  • Click!

I’ve got a bunch of their catalogs downstairs right now (2 year old nephew). Not sure if they’ve ever been sued, but I’d think it would be a baseless case. No one is forcing you to buy books from them. They’re no more an exclusive outlet than… say, Barnes & Noble (you can’t buy anything from Waldenbooks - if they’re even around anymore - while at B&N).

Heh. This thread reminds me of getting in trouble for reading a Stephen King novel in first grade (“inappropriate for his age,” they said - my parents kind of won that argument). That novel (The Eyes of the Dragon) was awesome - I still read it every five years or so, and I hate that genre but love the novel.

Do they have a monopoly on “Hang in there!” and “I hate Mondays” posters?

Is the Scholastic book club thingy still around?? I would have thought the internet and Amazon would have put them out of business long ago.

I remember as a lad, it took WEEKS to get your books. Amazon offers free next-day shipping.

They don’t have a monopoly on anything. There’s no rule that schools have to have book fairs. There are lots of other fund-raising events that Scholastic has nothing to do with.

Just because you specialize in something, and you’re the biggest, that doesn’t make an anti-trust suit.

True, but if you specialize, and you’re the ONLY one in that field, THAT’s what makes an anti-trust suit. And I think the OP thought that Scholastic monopolizes the whole field to themselves.

All the more need for them: where else are kids today going to learn to delay gratification?

Ex scholastic employee here.

I am not aware of any significant legal actions but the monster has far more tentacles than you imagine. Scholastic owns dozens of publishing houses in a variety of markets. Scholastic buys up competitors regularly, while I was there Troll book fairs was bought and disbanded, along with a Much smaller company called Pages book fairs. Small companies kept popping up and skimming off a 50-100 fairs a year and once they get big enough do dent the local scholastic book fairs revenues, they get bought.

Pressure from big retailers curtailed some of the "cheaper at book fair than at Barnes & noble".  You will still see book fairs and clubs with exclusive paperback or hardcover editions not available in stores.

Book fairs (where I worked) are promoted as fundraisers and are often seen as more appropriate than candy/cookie dough/giftwrap/whatever.

They also depend on immediate gratification

any scholastic book fair can also be ordered any way you like, no toys, no posters, extra newberry/Caldecott award winners, no problem. The warehouse just does not add or adds extra when they pack that section.

I am pretty sure seesaw and firefly are scholastic subsidiaries, but it’s been a while so I may be incorrect.

No it doesn’t, says the practicing antitrust attorney.

… sort of. They do distribute books from multiple publishers, but let’s just say I’m aware of cases where they won’t carry competitors’ books that compete directly with their own titles.

But, no legal action apparently. Thanks for checking, folks.

That’s what I was going to say. It’s illegal to take certain anticompetitive actions in order to create or to maintain a monopoly. It’s not illegal just to have a monopoly.

They do? Since when? The only free shipping I know of that Amazon offers is the slow kind. It’s still probably faster than the catalogs, but not “next day”.