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A Disturbing Trend

It was announced on Thursday that Multnomah Publishers has been purchased by Random House, Inc. In a press release, Random House says:

The Oregon-based Multnomah publishes more than 100 new titles annually by such popular authors as Randy Alcorn, Shaunti Feldhahn, Robin Jones Gunn, and Andy Stanley. Its active backlist of more than 600 works of fiction and nonfiction includes classic books of faith by Dr. James Dobson, Francine Rivers, and Joshua Harris, and THE PRAYER OF JABEZ by Bruce Wilkinson, the eight-million-copy #1 New York Times bestseller and the bestselling book published in the U.S. in 2001.

Multnomah will become Random House, Inc.’s second evangelical Christian imprint, following the creation of WaterBrook Press in 1996. WaterBrook is an editorially autonomous division of Random House’s Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group. Multnomah will be integrated operationally with WaterBrook, relocating to WaterBrook’s offices in Colorado Springs. Together they will form the new WaterBrook Multnomah division within Doubleday Broadway, with each imprint maintaining its distinct editorial identity.

This is further evidence of a disturbing trend in Christian publishing in which we see secular companies purchasing and assimilating Christian imprints. As the press release indicates, Random House now has two Christian imprints, Multnomah and WaterBrook Press. Similarly, Zondervan was recently purchased by Harper Collins. The Christian music industry has seen similar patterns. This proves that Christian products, whether books, music or trinkets, are becoming an increasingly lucrative market and one that is ripe for exploitation by big companies.

The acquisition of Multnomah makes for some strange dynamics. For instance, books like The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney and Stop Dating the Church by Josh Harris, both gospel-centered books written by godly, gospel-focused men, are published by a gospel-free secular company. It is fair to ask how this will impact the company’s long-term dedication to these books and to the authors. And I wonder how these authors and others will regard the company now that it is in new hands. The time may soon be coming when many of the most popular versions of the Bible are owned and printed by non-Christian companies. We an only guess what the ramifications of such a situation might be.

In recent months I have heard any number of stories about publishers and their sometimes shocking attitudes toward their authors and books. Too often it seems publishers, and big publishers in particular, are driven by the bottom line more than anything else. There are exceptions, of course, and many publishers (especially smaller ones) have maintained their integrity. P&R Publishing, Crossway, Evangelical Press and others seem to truly desire to honor God through the business of publishing books. But too many others have become captives to the bottom line, publishing books primarily on the basis of what will sell the most copies. And in an age when almost anything can pass for “Christian,” these popular books often bear little resemblance to the Christianity of the Bible. It is little wonder that ministries like Ligonier have created their own small publishing branches. With increasing ease of distribution in today’s world and Sproul’s name to provide credibility, this publishing venture may just succeed. I’m sure many other ministries will follow suit.

Can Sovereign Grace Books or Grace To You Publishing be far behind?