HarperCollins Publishers today announced it was buying Christian/inspirational publisher Thomas Nelson "for an undisclosed sum." It's a huge move since the company will now reportedly control about half of the Christian publishing market.You can be sure that people like Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo will freak out because Rupert Murdoch is the force behind all of this. Conspiracy theories will abound!
The question now is how the acquisition will play with Zondervan, Thomas Nelson's chief competition. HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, acquired Zondervan in 1988. (It also owns religion and spirituality imprint HarperOne.) Thomas Nelson says it is reportedly the largest Christian publisher in the world and the seventh largest trade-book publisher in the United States. Zondervan says it is the world's leading Bible publisher.
This is simply the free market at work. These companies provide what Christian, or at least religious, consumers by and large are demanding. Lots of books by Max Lucado, schlock and trinkets, fluffy books and self-help guides dressed up in churchy language. That doesn't make it right, it just makes good business sense and if Rupert Murdoch is anything he is a good businessman.
This is also why blogging is so important. Sure the blogging world is rife with kooks and semi-professional watchbloggers and some really, really poor writing but it also is a huge outlet of writing and thought and discussion that frankly wouldn't make the cut in a highly commercialized operation. Most bloggers wouldn't make it in the world of mass publishing but that doesn't mean their voices are less important. It is also all the more reason we should support independent publishers like Energion Publications and those authors who self-publish. Niche publishers like Presbyterian and Reformed Publications will continue to publish their works as well. The end is not upon us and we are not facing an exclusive future of recycled fluff churned out by one massive publishing house. We do however need to encourage alternate outlets of thought and discussion. Bloggers, independent publishers, self-published authors, etc. all give voice in the church to dissent, to questions, to the issues that make people uncomfortable and hopefully shake the trees once in a while. We can't depend on the big religious publishing houses for that and really never could. Nor should we in 2011.
So my fellow bloggers, blog away! Buy books from Energion and P&R! Write a book of your own! make your voice heard because all of us have something to say even if what we have to say doesn't make any sense!