Christian Booksellers Face Crisis of Faith
Stephen McGarveyStephen McGarvey is the Executive Editor of Crosswalk.com and Christianity.com for the Salem Web Network. He is a World Journalism Institute fellow and has previously worked for BreakPoint with Chuck Colson, and the Home School Legal Defense Association. His articles have appeared in several publications including WORLD, The Washington Times, byFaith, BreakPoint WorldView, and the Union Leader (Manchester, NH).
- 2007 Aug 03
I came across this report from a few weeks ago in the Washington Post about Christian publishing and Christian bookstores. The article makes some intriguing, yet not exactly surprising points.
1. Booksellers are no longer the dominant force in Christian retail. Christian “products” of other kinds now fill the aisle of Christian bookstores and the International Christian Retail Show (formerly known as Christian Booksellers Convention).
2. Large secular publishing houses are buying up the smaller Christian publishers, and starting their own Christian divisions to try and find the next big Christian seller like “The Purpose Driven Life.”
3. Christian bookstores are no longer the primary place people buy Christian books. “Online sellers such as Amazon.com, and such "big box" stores as Wal-Mart, account for an increasing percentage of their profits -- and their attention.” So good news, bad news: the Christian message gets much wider exposure, consumers get cheaper product, but the mom and pop Christian bookstores are being eclipsed by the larger retailers.
Says the article:
To many, this is not just any business; it's God's business. To others, it is an opportunity to capitalize on the growing awareness of faith and the powerful political and social force of evangelicals. "The Prayer of Jabez" and the "Left Behind" series are just two examples of tsunami-like book sales that confounded the historically secular publishing industry in the past decade… Michael S. Hyatt, chief executive of Thomas Nelson Inc., the largest Christian publisher, predicts tough times for publishers owned by the major New York houses. "I think we're going to see some of those Christian publishing houses back on the block," he said…
"Christian publishers can be more innovative than the New York houses," he said. "People are seeking meaningful experiences, and we need to find better ways to meet those needs."
It will be interesting to see how the growing influence of newcomers to the Christian market will change the industry.