HarperCollins Buys Nelson

The publishing world, and particularly the Christian publishing world, is abuzz because of the announcement today that HarperCollins (the third largest trade publisher in the United States) has purchased Thomas Nelson (which claims to be the seventh largest trade publisher). With Zondervan

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and HarperOne already under the umbrella of HarperCollins (which itself is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.), half of all Christian trade publishing will be in the hands of a single entity.

What does it mean?

It means that Christian publishing is in a period of consolidation. All industries go through cycles of expansion and consolidation. Expansion is characterized by the growth of existing companies and the launching of new ones. Consolidation is characterized by firms going out of existence or being bought out by or merged with others. This is nothing new. It’s happened several times before over the last century, and it will happen again.

Why consolidation now? The number of Christian and general trade bookstores has been on decline for several years. The economy in general is stumbling toward recovery. Reading levels are declining very slowly. Sales of digital books have not generally made up the shortfall in traditional print sales.

This is clearly not the optimum time to start a new publishing house. But if you want to stay in the game, it is time to increase economies of scale. And the new HarperCollins/Zondervan/Nelson/Harper One behemoth certainly has scale. For other publishers, it means finding ways to stay close to readers, keep them loyal and be more efficient. It means being smarter.

In Moneyball Billy Beane tells his scouts for the Oakland Athletics that they can’t win at the Yankees’ game since they spend five times more on player salaries than the Athletics do. So he plays a different game, finding unknown players with an uncanny ability to get on base.

There’s an analogy there, somewhere.

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

7 thoughts on “HarperCollins Buys Nelson”

  1. It is surely criminal to allow one outfit to get so much control over the Christian publishing industry. Me thinks I smell a rat, inquisitorial, the one world church coming, taking in all, crushing as it will, the inevitable opposition. They will be able to somp out the creationists, the congregational church government idea, rid themselves (something promised and even put in writing at the end of the napoleonic period) of the infernal republic idea which worked so well with a bible believing public. Home were then unlocked, crime was low, and conversion produced a law-abiding citizenry. We are not far from either disaster with the idiotic advocates of control for the sake of security or a Third Great Freat Awakening which will take the whole earth in one genertion and every soul in…and that for 1000 generations. I reckon the latter as God is not just great or greater but greatest. His awesomeness utterly transfixes the beholder, a pervasive, penetrating, persuasive, preeminent, prolific, productive, peerless, precious potency and pleasure, wonderful beyond words.

  2. Behemoth? Economies of scale?
    How can we as Christians endorse this “consolidation” under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch? Frankly i find it most discomfiting that a pagan now controls a sizeable majority of Christian publishing.
    And then we have all those Christian (sic) trinkets / bibles etc etc being manufactured in Communist China…
    Baal is rising and we are kneeling.

  3. Wow. Check your meds, Dr. Jim. We’re talking about publishing companies, not the church. This isn’t conspiratorial, end times, one world narrative. It’s a business decision. It’s about profits, not prophets. One false doctrinal step and the excellent authors at Zondervan and Thomas Nelson will bolt and revolt on the web. One reason this could happen is because authors no longer have to pay the publishing piper to play the publishing game. Christian bookstores are quickly becoming kitschy anachronisms with far more stuff than books. We can all be publishers now via the Internet, blogs, e-books, PDFs, POD, and the whole digital revolution. If you want to make a difference, forget about the Murdochian machinations and start supporting 1) the independent Christian digital self-publishers who are choosing NOT to pay the publishing piper, and 2) the worthy independent traditional publishers like IVP who are true and trustworthy. They will be the game changers.

  4. Claymore – like as in the mines that they use to call claymores? You need to check your lack of knowledge. A friend of mine had a fellow in his church years ago who filled him in all of the knowledge then current on the conspiracy. I came along and we crossed check the knowledge that I had. Guess what? It dove tailed. Did you ever read Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope? Or his The Anglo American Establishment and the last will of Rhodes? Or Cleon Skousen’s The Naked Capitalist? Or did you never study under one of the leading theoreticians for world communism? Or have as a friend one of the real anticommunist crusaders who had been invited to join the conspiracy while a student at Columbia (from which he received a Master’s and one from Yale; he also had a Ph.D. from a seminary). The commies were so powerful they got him fired from a church position…one of them ecumenical kind. The name of the game is research, research, research, checked, and crossed checked, and independently checked. There are so many ways to develop real knowledge of what is truly going on behind the scenes. For those who don’t and won’t and buy the pabulum and swill of the public propaganda, it is sad, indeed. Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!

  5. If someone was going to sound the alarm on Christian publishing it well past the state of urgency. Truth is most Christian books today lack depth and theological content, let alone sound theological content. But thankfully there is still a moderately sized market for good Christian material and small publishing companies like Westminster Books and divisions like crossway that still put out Christocentric and Gospel centered theology. It’s just an indication of the state of books in general. C.S. Lewis advocated that for every 3 new books one reads he should read at least one old book to not be so entrenched in his own time. I find that method to be most helpful. Thanks to guys like Andy good Christian writing/publishing still has a place in this fast paced ever changing world of publishing.

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