HarperCollins Combines Zondervan and Thomas Nelson to Form Christian Unit, Schoenwald to Be CEO

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By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

In a move expected by publishing observers, HarperCollins has wasted little time in integrating its acquisition of Thomas Nelson by combining it with its Zondervan unit and forming a Christian publishing division.

Mark Schoenwald, formerly the Thomas Nelson CEO, has been appointed president and CEO of the combined operation, pushing out Scott Macdonald, the president and CEO of Zondervan, who will stay on in an advisory role, the company said in a statement today.

Thomas Nelson was thought to be the largest Christian publisher in the U.S. until it was acquired by HarperCollins, a deal that closed last week. Zondervan, a subsidiary of HarperCollins, was thought to be the second largest Christian publisher. The acquisition and integration make HarperCollins the largest Christian publisher in the U.S.

HarperCollins announced its $200 million acquisition of Nashville-based Thomas Nelson late last year but the acquisition didn’t close until July 11. Thomas Nelson has several blockbuster titles, including Heaven is for Real and Jesus Calling.

Schoenwald, 50, joined Thomas Nelson in 2004 as chief sales officer and rose to the rank of CEO in 2011. Prior to Thomas Nelson, he held several roles in private equity, primarily on the operational side running companies.

Macdonald was appointed president and CEO of Zondervan in March 2011. He joined the company in December 2010 as acting general manager of Zondervan’s The City business unit. Prior to Zondervan, he had experience running a chain of Christian stores and has had several executive roles at technology companies.

In 2009, about 2% of Thomas Nelson’s publishing revenue was digital. In 2011, that number jumped to 12%. By 2015, the company expects 40% of its publishing revenue to be digital, Schoenwald told Digital Book World in an interview in November 2011.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

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One thought on “HarperCollins Combines Zondervan and Thomas Nelson to Form Christian Unit, Schoenwald to Be CEO

  1. I’m far from impressed that nation’s two largest religious publishers would become subsidiaries of a secular publisher. They gave up editorial independence for what? Perhaps a better dental plan.

    That’s sad and all too illustrative of just how little ‘salt and light’ there is left in evangelicalism. Two centuries later, the faith that once fought and defeated slavery in the British Empire is now woefully self-obsessed and feeling-centric. Today’s typical evangelical title is on the order of Jesus is my Nanny. Secular liberals have a nanny state that turns people into spoiled children. Evangelicals have a nanny-god who does much the same. In the Gospels, passive, sheep-like behavior is regarded as a problem. In many of today’s evangelical churches it’s the central goal of the pastor’s sermons.

    Nor am I impressed with some of the decisions the merger has brought. As an idea, The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis is marvelous and the work Walter Hooper invested in it is impressive. But the implementation came up woefully lacking.

    The first two volumes were already monsters at 1057 and 1132 pages respectively. But the third exceeded even that at an incredible 1810 pages. And given the binding necessary to join so many pages, the third as a hardback resembles a cheap, mass-market paperback. It is a pain to hold, a nuisance to keep open, and difficult to read. You’d think someone at Harper SanFrancisco would have known better than that.

    The series should have been at least six volumes with perhaps a seventh for a comprehensive index and the supplementals. And after the initial print run, it should have moved quickly to print on demand. Lewis will always be of interest. Books by and about him that are this important should always stay in print. The result would have been a steady flow of income for both Harper SanFrancisco and Zondervan. This bad idea is also bad business.

    Instead, the third and most interesting volume (covering his Narnia years) never saw a paperback edition, perhaps because of its great bulk. Copies of the hardback are already so rare after just six years that they are selling today on Amazon for $147 new or $77.33 used. Only by sheer accident did I recently pick up a copy for $20.

    Also, as someone who lays out books for a living, don’t get me talking about how poorly and wastefully the books are laid out. White space should be allocated with care. Collected letters don’t have to look on page like the original letters. Far more thought should have gone into that. My Chesterton on War and Peace is a good illustration of how it might have been done.

    In short, coming under the Harper SanFrancisco umbrella hasn’t brought good results. More thought would have given Lewis fans a much more readable collection and one that will remain available over the years.

    –Michael W. Perry, editor of Theism and Humanism: The Book that Influenced C. S. Lewis by Arthur Balfour

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