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Christian titles behind Baker reorganization

Associated Press, USA
Apr. 11, 2004 • Wednesday April 14, 2004

Publishing group expanding to meet needs of popular branch of books

ADA (AP) — A growing Christian book publisher has just made the lives of a few cabbies a bit simpler.

Not long ago, when authors would fly into Grand Rapids and ask taxi drivers to take them to Baker Book House, they often ended up at the company’s retail store in Kentwood instead of its headquarters six miles away in Ada.

Gone now is the confusion that resulted from the company and its bookstore sharing the same name. Because of its double-digit growth, Baker Book House has reorganized, renaming its publishing division Baker Publishing Group while redefining its six divisions and expanding its warehouse.

Baker annually publishes about 250 titles through its divisions.

“Each of our divisions serves a different segment of the Christian market. I like to call it ‘unified diversity,’ company President Dwight Baker said. “They are constantly improving their ability to know readers, select the right authors and know where the action is in their specific segment.”

Last year, Baker continued growing by purchasing Bethany House Publishers, the nation’s second-largest publisher of Christian fiction. Bethany is widely credited with popularizing the genre and its line of more than 2,600 titles includes best sellers by such authors as Beverly Lewis (“The Covenant“).

Baker won’t disclose specifics but it says Bethany should double the company’s sales during the next several years.

To address the increased demand, Baker opened a new warehouse in Ada in December. With room for 5,400 skids of books, the company’s entire inventory now can be kept in one location for the first time since 1992.

The Christian publishing market has grown from $5.7 billion in 1999 to more than $8 billion this year. The region has seen much of the growth.

Baker rival Zondervan, which is based in Grand Rapids, is the world’s largest publisher of Bibles and has a nonfiction runaway best seller in Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life.” The book has sold about 16 million copies since being released in September 2002.

Christian publishing has made great strides in the 14 years John Sawyer has worked in the industry, first with Zondervan and now as Baker’s director of marketing.

“When I started, most Christian books were sold through Christian bookstores,” he said. “Now, the typical Barnes & Noble carries as many Christian books as a Christian bookstore.”

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