News Corp Acquires Major Christian Book Publisher Thomas Nelson

Under the helm of News Corporation (News Corp), the two largest religious publishers in the U.S. are joining forces in hopes to capitalize within the financially sound Christian literature market.

News Corp already owns HarperCollins and on Monday, the company announced the acquisition of Thomas Nelson, the widely known faith-based publisher that publishes Christian books, Bibles, videos, software, audio, and children’s toys.

According to the Financial Times, sale specifics were kept private. However, a News Corp insider revealed that the publishing giant paid less than $473 million, which was the price of the Nashville-based Thomas Nelson when private InterMedia Partners purchased the company in 2006.

As the industry faces fewer bookstores and growing sales challenges, publishing executives predict that consolidation is an emerging trend in the book world and the Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson merger will open doors for other collaborations.

“The industry is only starting to get its head around the fact that it’s going to start 2012 without Borders helping it sling books,” said Michael Norris, trade books analyst at Simba Information, a consultancy in the Financial Times. “With fewer book stores around, it would seem there would be some consolidation.”

This is not the first time News Corp has merged with a faith-based publisher. The company currently owns Zondervan, the largest U.S. Bible publisher and the second largest religious publisher overall.

Despite the financial burden the publishing industry faces, sales of religious books have remained profitably steady. FT reports that sales were up one percent from 2008 to 2010 according to the American Association of Publishers.

In 2010, religious publishers sold 204 million copies of Christian literature for about $1.35 billion.

HarperCollins chief executive Brian Murray told FT, "Thomas Nelson adds further balance to our existing publishing programs. Its broad inspirational appeal is a good complement to Zondervan, which will continue to publish books consistent with its mission."

Thomas Nelson was founded in Scotland in 1978. The company has published books from heavy hitting authors like Billy Graham, Richard Stearns and Max Lucado. One of its most popular titles is Heaven is for Real, the blockbuster story of a Nebraska boy’s near-death experience which has been on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list for 49 weeks and is currently in the very top spot.

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