Last evening, a bombshell exploded in the worldwide book trade with the announcement by HarperCollins in New York of their proposed purchase of Thomas Nelson USA (Publisher of Billy Graham, Max Lucado and the New King James Bible).
This is astonishing. News Corporation already owns Zondervan (the Publisher of the New International Version, on licence from Biblica USA) and HarperCollins (the Publisher of the Good News Bible).
I, for one, am not hugely keen on the news that an ethically discredited NewsCorp may shortly own two major USA Christian publishers; Zondervan & Thomas Nelson; thus – incredibly – making Rupert Murdoch the largest Christian publisher in the world, in control of many of the major English translations of the Bible!
I believe, in the light of the phone-hacking scandal here in the UK, that NewsCorp is not a ‘fit and proper’ entity to control such a major percentage of English Bible translations. To me, this is extremely worrying.
As John Duncan said on Facebook today;
‘By my reckoning this now makes HC owners of the companies that produce the NKJV, a large percentage of the KJV (both Nelson and HC), the NCV, the NIV (US editions), the GNB, the ESV (UK editions), and some NRSV – rather a lot of bibles, really’.
Christianity Today reported in September 2010 that:
‘The American Bible Society says there are 32 translations on the North American market, while Christian Book Distributors offers over 50. BibleGateway.com offers 23 English versions’.
Whilst this is true, CBA USA figures indicate that the list of best selling Bibles by unit sales in 2010 is actually a much smaller group of translations;
- New International Version
- King James Version
- New King James Version
- New Living Translation
- English Standard Version
- Holman Christian Standard Bible
- The Message
Make no mistake; News Corp may soon control the majority of the bestselling English translations of the Bible. In this list, the only independent translations are The New Living Translation (Tyndale), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Broadman and Holman) and The Message (NavPress).
I have known and worked with good people in all of the companies mentioned above and I have no wish to cause offence but this seems to be a rather perilous and serious state of affairs. Thomas Nelson is a privately owned USA company – maybe the owners will see sense and reconsider the sale.
2 Corinthians 2:17 states; ‘Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God’.
These are salutory and hard words indeed for all of us working in this industry.
This list documents some recent ’happenings’ in the wider book trade;
- Online sales now make up 17% of all UK retail spending
- Living Oasis – experiencing ongoing shop closures
- STL Distribution – a further round of redundancies
- Celebrated the 400 year anniversary of the King James Bible (AV)
- Inexorable rise in the sale of eBooks
- PA figures show eBooks grew last year to 6% (£180m) of £3.1bn UK book market
- Scott Macdonald replaces Moe Girkins as Zondervan’s CEO
- Amazon eBookstore lists 945,000 Kindle generated eBooks
- Four authors have already sold over 1 million eBooks via Amazon
- USA book production figures rose 5% despite huge increase in eBook sales
- The end of an era; RIP STL Distribution – say hello to Trust Media Distribution
- Amazon predicted to sell $5.4bn Kindle generated eBooks in 2011
- Amazon is selling more eBooks than paperbacks; 105 on Kindle to every 100 in print
- HMV sells its Waterstones business to A&NN Capital Fund Management for £53m
Click here for an earlier digest of the first 8 weeks of this year.
More news of interest to book trade readers as eBook sales continue to gain momentum. Zondervan has just reported its NIV Bible eBook (released on 15 Dec 2010), featuring the newly updated New International Version of the Bible (NIV), is the company’s fastest-selling eBook, and made it onto the USA Today bestsellers list. The digital release marks the first time that a new Bible translation has launched in a digital format prior to publication in a print format.
Chip Brown, Bible Publisher at Zondervan is quoted as saying, ‘Millions of people unwrapped an iPad, Kindle, Nook or other e-reader during the holiday season, leading to an industry-wide spike in eBook sales, and we are delighted that the NIV Bible was among consumers’ most desired eBooks to download’.
Zondervan claim to be the first publisher to have had Bibles available in Apple’s iBookstore at the launch of the iPad. In total, the company has published more than 30 Bible titles for eBook readers, including the iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, B&N’s Nook and the Sony Reader.
I must first declare an interest; I’m a total Philip Yancey fan (there – I’ve said it!). ’Grace Notes’ is drawn from the best of 30 years’ writing by the award-winning author and acts as something of a ‘Yancey Taster’; it’s therefore both good and bad. Good, as it acts as a superb introduction to Yancey’s writings, and bad, in that inevitably it cannot do complete justice to the depth and quality of those writings. For that you have to read the actual books themselves.
Even if you do own all of Yancey’s books, this one is still worth buying just for the Preface alone. If you love books and you love good writing, you’ll very much appreciate the intro; it’s his personal synopsis of what led Yancey to write, along with many of the events along the way, as well as how he deals with the considerable impact he has made on other people through his writings – wonderful, moving, powerful ‘stuff’.
The structure of this book is 366 short daily readings drawn from the three decades of Yancey’s work – from books, magazine articles and miscellaneous jottings. The real bonus is the Comprehensive Index both of the subjects covered and the source of each reading, thus enabling the reader to ‘dip in’ at random (ignoring the daily plan!) and to come across so many beautiful instances of spiritual serendipity. If you know Yancey well, this acts as great ‘memory-jogger’, but if not, it’s just a wonderful introduction to a truly inspirational and gifted Christian writer. The Descriptive Bibliography is also a delight; a short pen-portrait by the author of each of his books describing something of their genesis and background.
Philip Yancey started out as a journalist and has been writing articles for Christianity Today since 1983. Four of his books have each sold over a million copies worldwide; he is probably best known for ‘What’s so Amazing about Grace?’ He moved to Colorado from Chicago in 1992 but, unlike the often questionable certainties of many other American writers, I particularly like Yancey for his honest and down-to-earth qualities. He too finds Christianity just a little perplexing and whilst, always insightful, never seeks to bring facile answers to what are so often the major mysteries of faith.
As I get older, I have concluded that I could live with just the writings of Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, David Adam, Brennan Manning and, of course Philip Yancey. My life is made ever so much richer by being in their company as a result of reading their books. My favourite Yancey book is probably ‘Soul Survivor’ but now I’m torn by just having read his soon-to-be-published book and another certain best-seller, ‘What good is God’ which could be a strong contender for that particular spot – it is very Yancey and very good but that must be the subject of another review!
Grace Notes – Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim
Note – This book was provided FOC by Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace magazine for the purpose of writing this review. Further details can be found at http://www.christianmarketplace.org.uk. You can download a free copy of the digital version of the magazine from the website.