Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Bookstore Challenge

My friend Paul Wilkinson from Thinking Out Loud wrote the following observation recently and posted it on his blog. I challenge you to take the Bookstore Challenge THIS WEEK. Next week might be too late. Your local Christian bookstore might have a CLOSED sign draped over the door or, even worse, BANKRUPTCY SALE!

Paul writes:

Last night, I spent about twenty minutes checking out a number of Christian blogs that feature book reviews. Right now, the hot title is Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different.

Letting my mouse hover above the links on these different blogs, each one directed readers to Amazon. Christian leaders — or perhaps the Christian community in general — have ceded sales to Amazon the same as local restaurants have stopped making coffee and ceded sales to Starbucks.

This makes me rather sad.

That’s why I’m inviting my readers to take the BS Challenge, or more fully, the Book Store Challenge. I’m challenging you over the next seven days to visit — if your community still has one — your local Christian bookstore.

The Christian bookstore model served us well for over half a century. These stores provide a storefront gateway to local churches, parachurch ministries and Christian counselors in the center of the marketplace. They provide an additional level of discernment, determining what Christian products reached homes, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. They pass on knowledge and insight when a young person or new believer is buying their first Bible that no online service can begin to match.

I’m not saying you have to buy anything. Your mere presence registers a vote with the store staff that such places still have relevance to your community. Simply check out some books. Read the back covers. Flip through the table of contents. Visit the sale section. Check out the Christian music section. All things that, granted, you can do online.

Look at the larger retail environment and you’ll see that among retail sectors — housewares, hardware, linens, pet supplies, greeting cards, toys, sporting goods — no one is taking a hit as hard as sellers of books and music. Unfortunately, Christian stores are getting swept up in the paradigm shift brought about by technological change. But nothing online can fill the ‘ministry gap’ this is leaving in cities and towns.

If the issue is truly ‘price’ then ask the store management if they’ll match the price on a particular webpage. The store where I work will do this with quantity orders for churches. Some have the right to decline. We feel it’s better to make only ten cents per book and keep the communication alive than to lose contact completely.

But if it’s just about price, that’s sad, because the books and resources at issue are truly priceless. To make price the issue simply diminishes the integrity of the product.

Either way, take the BS Challenge in the next seven days. Target a Christian bookstore in your community and determine that your visit’s purpose is to bless the store, if not by your purchase, at least by your presence.

The loss of a Christian bookstore in your community won’t just be a loss to the owners; it would be a loss to every local church, parachurch organization and every unchurched person who at some point in the future will need a first-contact, marketplace location from which to connect to the larger Body of Christ.

Take the Bookstore Challenge this week.

Post script from David:

On a similar note, check out a previous post I wrote several months ago entitled The Late Great Christian Bookstore. Check it out here.

And...further to that...If you live in the Peterborough, Ontario area, please make sure you visit Emmaus Family Books and say "hi" to my friend Jim Rose. Emmaus Family Books is located in the Market Plaza on the main street, George Street, just south of the Holiday Inn.

The address is an easy as 1,2,3 to remember...123 George Street North.

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