Victoria Barnsley, c.e.o., said the move was in response to the challenge of free content online.
The current Collins, HarperPress and HarperCollins Non-Fiction divisions will be re-structured, with William Collins incorporating HarperPress and elements of Collins such as history, science, politics and business. This new imprint will be led by executive publisher David Roth-Ey. The imprint is named after the Scottish schoolmaster and publisher who created the first Collins English Dictionary in 1824 and started the business.
Harper Non-Fiction will continue to focus on lifestyle and entertainment titles, incorporating some of the brands currently included in the Collins list. Carole Tonkinson will continue in her role as publisher of Harper Non-Fiction.
The separate Collins information arms, Geo and Learning, which publish reference books and atlases, will continue as before, as will Fourth Estate.
Hannah MacDonald, the current Collins publisher, has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. No other job losses have been announced.
HC c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley said: "The non-fiction market is challenged by the wealth of free content online, we need to focus our resources so that we can concentrate on stretching the boundaries and redefining the genre. I believe publisher brands will become increasingly important in the digital age and we are therefore re-inventing the William Collins brand to help us cultivate a real identity."
She added: "The William Collins vision, back in 1819, was to make books of the highest quality available to every home in the land. The new list will draw on the values of integrity, authority and clarity which were so much part of his vision. In an age where everything is about instant gratification, some qualities remain eternal. Bringing together two stellar lists of non-fiction authors under this heritage brand will enable us to engage with a broader audience through events and digital platforms and thereby find new readers."
Harper Non-Fiction has had recent successes with Cheryl Cole’s My Story, One Direction's annual and a cookery hit with Lorraine Pascale.
Barnsley said: "The team in the HarperCollins Non-Fiction division are second to none in finding large audiences for big commercial properties, as well as building dedicated readerships for equally important but more niche content. The addition of the outstanding authors from the Collins stable will give them greater scope for exploiting new opportunities in these areas."
She added: "I would also like to say how sorry I am that Hannah MacDonald will be leaving the business. During three years at HarperCollins, Hannah has brought her fine intelligence and clarity of thought to the Collins imprint and we wish her all the very best with her future career."
MacDonald said: "Working with the Collins team of editors, salesmen and women, marketeers and publicists has been a real treat these last three and a half years. It's been a challenging time in the industry but they have risen to that challenge to deliver magnificently, from remarkable books and digital products to incredible campaigns and partnerships."