The Lerner Publishing Group has expanded its presence in the children's book publishing market with the acquisition of Kar-Ben Copies. Based in Rockville, Md., Kar-Ben publishes books, calendars and cassettes on Jewish themes for children and families, and has approximately 100 titles in print.

Madeline Wikler, who cofounded the publisher in 1974 with Judye Groner, told PW that they were looking to sell the company "because we have brought it as far as we could go." Wikler and Groner will continue to acquire books from Kar-Ben's Rockville office, but all distribution functions will be assumed by Lerner. Because it had such a small infrastructure (two part-time employees), Kar-Ben sold its books primarily on a nonreturnable basis, a policy that limited its access to Barnes & Noble and Borders. With the purchase, Kar-Ben's titles will be sold to the trade by Lerner's sales force and under Lerner's trade terms, which include a returnable provision. Sales to specialty and gift shops will continue to be nonreturnable. Book fairs, Jewish bookstores and general independent bookstores, as well as its Web site, have been the company's primary marketing channels.

Lerner has renamed Kar-Ben Copies Kar-Ben Publishing, and it will become a division of Lerner. Both Wikler and Groner will report directly to Adam Lerner, company president. Wikler said she anticipates continuing to publish between six and eight titles annually. The company's all-time bestseller, and the book that launched the company, is My Very Own Haggadah, which has more than two million copies in print.