Baker Publishing Group celebrates its 75th anniversary at BEA and for the occasion is offering free copies of The Baker Book House Story, the recently released history of the company, and another gift, while supplies last at booth 1031.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., company began as a used bookstore in 1939, when Herman Baker opened his rented shop with 500 of his own books, homemade shelves, and two desks and a typewriter bought at the Salvation Army. Baker quickly moved into publishing with the release in 1940 of More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation by William Hendriksen, a professor at nearby Calvin College. The book is still in print today.
By 1942, orders for used books were coming in from around the world and as close as the next block. Baker stocked his small store with the best reference works, commentaries, teaching aids, and history books, drawing world-renowned preachers and theologians to his doorstep. He also began reissuing such reference works as Barnes’ Notes and the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, soon making a name as one of the largest distributors of new and used religion books in the U.S. and abroad.
The 1960s saw expansion of the publishing division and building of the current offices in nearby Ada, Mich. The company began purchasing smaller publishing houses, including Canon Press and W.A. Wilde Company, and expanding its retail base, owning half a dozen retail stores at one point, under the leadership of Herman Baker’s son Peter. His other son, Richard, became president of the company in 1987, though Herman continued working until his death in 1991. Richard Baker oversaw the purchase of the Fleming H. Revell Company and Chosen Books in 1992, a move that brought Baker out of the academic/classics market and squarely into the trade book market. Dwight Baker, Richard’s son, became president of the company in 1997, overseeing the addition of Brazos Press in 1999 and the purchase of Bethany House Publishers in 2003, followed by the acquisition of Regal Books as well. Dwight Baker sees only benefit for the purchase.
“We will concentrate on incorporating Regal books and authors into our lines, with a goal to maintain the publishing process as effectively as possible,” he says. “In every conversation I’ve held so far, the community of publishers, agents, and authors have expressed a common impression that this transition will serve the church well over the long term.”
Among Baker Publishing Group’s top sellers: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, has sold more than five million copies; Beverly Lewis books have sold more than 15 million; and Janette Oke has more than 25 million of her books sold.
“In 10 years I would prefer to be just where we are, but surrounded by emerging young leaders who bring a passion and talent for Christian book publishing that makes me feel like a novice,” says Baker. “Ten years down the road, I hope to be standing on the curb and cheering the racers.”