Saturday, October 7, 2017

Death Comes to a Bookstore

I am in shock. My seminary bookstore has closed. After local Cokesbury, Berean, and Family Christian Stores turned out the lights, I comforted myself with the thought that my seminary store was still a place where I could browse and buy the newest Christian books. Then came an email announcement that the store would close September 21. The store’s website now reads: "CTS Leadership has discussed at length how to balance the enjoyment and convenience of having a bookstore with whether it is good stewardship to draw away significant resources from other needs in order to keep it open."  Their decision? "The Bookstore has now closed. Students should contact Follett Books for their textbooks this semester."

When business news commentators noted the demise of general bookstore chains such as Dalton’s and Walden’s, they predicted that specialty bookshops would weather the storm. Stores devoted to local history, crafts, sports, and other niche interests have loyal clienteles, and it seemed safe to assume these folks would  buy their wares at a premium for the privilege of having a place to read and converse with like-minded people. But things haven’t turned out that way. (After all, what could be more specialized than a seminary bookstore?)
The outcome reminds me of a conversation I once had with Christian college president. He told me that the future of his institution depended on nurturing its source of income, but noted that most faculty members were indifferent to donors. With homespun sarcasm he said, “Ticks should be powerfully interested in the health of their sheep.”

I think we’ve reached that point as Christian authors. We need to be powerfully interested in the health of bookstores that carry our work. How might we do this? A few suggestions:
  • Patronize your local bookstores. Yes, you can save money by buying books online, but you can save your bookstores by buying through them. This assures that you'll have places to discover books that aren't touted online and "mission stations" that introduce books like yours to the general public.
  • Recommend these bookstores to others. The excitement of discovering a new author or new book can be contagious. Talk about your excitement as freely as you talk about the latest episode on your favorite sitcom.
  • Volunteer to coordinate special events for these bookstores. Offer to organize a book reading by several local authors on a "hot topic" such as racism or terrorism. If you know how to write an effective press release, do that promote the event. Bake some cookies. Provide folding chairs from your church. Enlist others to help with the logistics.
  • Encourage your local bookstore staff. Offer a word of thanks for a particularly good book recommendation. Send a "thank you" card for a job well done. And of course, pray for these frontline workers as they strive to make good literature available in your community. Make them aware that someone does care about their success.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.





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