News Corp. eyeing HarperCollins merger with Simon & Schuster?

That's the claim in a new report, which says News Corp. would like to have more leverage in negotiations with booksellers.

Another merger might be hitting the publishing industry.

News Corp., which owns HarperCollins Publishers, is considering acquiring Simon & Schuster, The Wall Street Journal is reporting today, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the companies' discussions. Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS, the same company that publishes CNET.

At this point, News Corp. hasn't made an offer and a deal "isn't imminent," according to the Journal's sources. However, the move appears to be a response to the recent announcement of a merger between Random House and Penguin Group, two of the larger and more powerful publishing houses in the industry.

Last month, Pearson, which owns Penguin, and Betelsmann, which owns Random House, announced a new joint venture that would create a mega book publisher. The joint venture is believed to give the companies more leverage in their dealings with booksellers both in print and digital.

News Corp.'s possible interest in Simon & Schuster comes as the company plans to split in two. One of the companies will be comprised of News Corp.'s entertainment divisions, like 20th Century Fox and FoxNews. The other company will handle its publishing interests.

According to the Journal's sources, the publishing business will have boatloads of cash ready to spend on acquisitions. Whether that will be put to use on Simon & Schuster remains to be seen.

News Corp. declined CNET's request for comment on the Journal's report.

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