And then there were four … The Big Four, that is

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S&S LogoGerman firm Bertelsmann, the world’s largest book publisher (parent company of Penguin Random House), has successfully bid to buy Simon & Schuster publishing house from ViacomCBS. This will make Penguin Random House (PRH) more than twice the size of its nearest competitor, Harper Collins.

A little while ago, responding to a Facebook rumour that nefarious people are changing the text of the Bible, I mentioned that English-language book publishing is largely in the hands of five multinational corporations:

Approximately 60% of English-language books are produced through the Big Five publishing houses:

The purchase of Simon & Schuster by Bertelsmann will reduce the Big Five to the Big Four.

Three of these four will be owned by media companies outside the English-speaking world: two are German-owned and one is French-owned. The remaining American company, News Corporation, was founded and is still largely owned by a family of Australian origin, Rupert Murdoch and his children.

The Big Five, soon Four, also own several of the larger Christian publishers in the US and the UK:

  • HarperCollins own Thomas Nelson and Zondervan with all of their imprints, Harlequin Love Inspired, as well as Olive Tree Bible Software;
  • Hachette own Hodder & Stoughton (UK publishers of the NIV) with all its imprints, as well as Faith WordsWorthy Publishing,  and Jericho Books (mainline Protestant).
  • Penguin Random House through their Crown Publishing division own Multnomah and Waterbrook, as well as Image (Catholic) and Convergent (mainline Protestant); their Knopf Doubleday division also publishes religious books, mostly Catholic;
  • Simon & Schuster (and soon Penguin Random House) owns Howard Books

Of the Big Five, only Macmillan does not have a Christian publisher under their roof.

Of course, in Christian publishing, there’s not only the Big Five/Four. There are still publishers which are either fully independent or are part of or owned by some larger organization. The lists below include mostly Protestant/Evangelical publishers, since that is what I am most familiar with. There are also many small Catholic publishers. Also, these lists focus on the United States, again, because that is the information I had access to. Additions and corrections are gladly accepted.

Fully Independent Christian Publishers

There still are quite a few of those, some operating as commercial enterprises (usually family-owned), some as charities/non-profits:

  • Baker Publishing Group, including Baker Book House, Bethany House, Revell, Brazos Press, and Chosen Books
  • Barbour Publishing
  • Broadstreet Publishing
  • Charisma Media
  • Cluny Media
  • Crossway
  • Eerdmans
  • Elk Lake Publishing
  • Group Publishing
  • Harvest House
  • Hendrickson Publishers, including Rose Publishing
  • Iron Stream Media, including New Hope Publishers, Iron Stream Books, Ascender Books, and LPC Books
  • Kregel Publishing
  • New Leaf Publishing, including Master Books
  • P&R Publishing (Presbyterian and Reformed)
  • Tyndale House Publishers
  • Whitaker House

Publishing divisions of larger organizations:

In a sense also independent, in that they are not part of a publishing conglomerate, but not fully independent in that they are a subsidiary or part of some other larger ministry or organization:

  • 1517 Media is owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Abingdon Press is owned by the United Methodist Church (UMC)
  • AMG is owned by AMG International, the former “American Mission to the Greeks”
  • B&H Publishing Group (Broadman & Holman) is owned, via Lifeway Christian Resources by the Southern Baptist Convention
  • CLC is owned by Christian Literature Crusade
  • David C. Cook, together with  Kingsway, Scripture Press, and Integrity Music is owned by the foundation of the same name
  • Concordia Publishing House is owned by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS)
  • Focus on the Family Publishing is owned by the ministry of the same name
  • Gospel Publishing House is owned by the Assemblies of God (AOG)
  • InterVarsity Press (IVP) is owned by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
  • NavPress is owned by The Navigators, and international ministry focussing on discipleship
  • Leafwood Books is owned by Abilene Christian University
  • Moody Publishing is owned by The Moody Bible Institute
  • Plough Publishing is owned by the Bruderhof Christian Communities
  • Warner Press is owned by the Church of God (Anderson)
  • Westminster John Knox is owned by the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA)
  • YWAM Publishing is owned by Youth With A Mission, an international mission organization

Note: This post was written as much for my own benefit as for others to hopefully enjoy.  In writing it I drew on various Wikipedia articles (on the various publishers and conglomerates) as well as on a blog post, “Who owns whom in publishing?” from the Steve Laube Agency, a Christian literary agency.


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