Modern Readers and their Books
It has been reported in Christianity Today that all 240 of the Family Christian Stores will be closing soon. These Christian bookstores have been extremely useful and helpful to believers. As one who used to work in a Christian bookstore many years ago, I know the disappointment and frustration that this must bring to many Christians who depended upon this bookstore chain for their Bibles, Sunday school literature and related materials.
In the bookstore in which I worked, we would see people come in regularly with issues, problems and needs. We would talk to them for a few minutes, discern what they were struggling with, and then recommend good quality Christian books to help them. This meant that we had to have a good understanding of Scripture, know not only the stock in our store but also anything else that might be available, have discernment, and be able to pick just the right book for them. Sometimes we would stop and pray with them. We wanted to supply them with materials which would help them find the Lord and grow in grace. We viewed this as our primary and basic ministry.
Regrettably over the years, many mom-and-pop Christian bookstores have gone out of business because of the big chain Christian bookstores. And now the big chain stores are going out of business.
There are several possible reasons for these Christian bookstores to be going out of business.
First, a good many of the stores quit carrying Bibles and quality Christian literature. Instead, they began to carry books which were nothing more than self-help literature. Many of these books and tapes would be about inner healing, self motivation and positive thinking. The stores also started stocking ’Christian’ knickknacks, jewelry and art. This stuff was known in the business collectively as ’holy hardware’.
Second, in recent years there has been a tremendous loss of reading skills and abilities. At about the same time there arose various electronic reading devices. There was a drop in the purchase of dead-tree books even from discount bookstores. Now independent discount bookstores are beginning to disappear.
Online businesses such as Amazon have exploded the world of ebooks into the public consciousness. They provide literature which is consistently cheaper than paper books and available within seconds, and have many options which make reading so much easier. With the modern Kindle readers and other e-readers, you can adjust the font size, number of lines per page and marginal spacing. Many people who love to read have moved to these readers because they can carry a huge number of books in their device and take it anywhere they like. This solves the problem that people have who read lots of books but have nowhere to store them.
Another interesting feature is that unlike a dead-tree book which has the added expense of printing, binding and shipping, the ebook can be typeset and made available quickly for readers. Often dead-tree books go out of print. However, it is possible and even feasible that ebooks never go out of print.
Some of the sad details of a populace that is losing its ability to read is the loss of classic literature which has come to us down through the centuries. However, books that have affected the human experience in just about every area of life can still be found in print in ebooks. Some publishers and retailers provide these classic books in ebook format for free or very little money. This is astounding. That cannot be said for paper books which cost a good deal of money to produce and ship.
This must not be understood as attacking paper books. I personally would love to see paper books in print and available widely for everyone to enjoy. But where does this bring us? With the major Christian publishers slow on the uptake in producing ebooks, and the failure of both private Christian bookstores and now major chain stores, where can Christians turn for quality Christian literature? For those who still have the ability to read, ebooks are a distinct avenue for reading.
But even more basic, we must teach our children to read. If your child is not learning good reading skills in school, help them. Let them see you model reading a book (and of course the most important book to read is the Bible). There are numerous things that you can do to help children and others not only learn to read but love and enjoy reading. You can even read a book as a family. It wouldn’t take but a few minutes each day. Be sure and ask questions to determine whether or not your child understands what they are reading.
At any rate, Christians need to take back the high ground of producing good quality Christian literature and help people to learn about the Lord Jesus and to grow in grace.
George W. Anderson taught at Columbia International University and served as the Editorial Manager as well as an Editorial Consultant of the Trinitarian Bible Society in London. Mr. Anderson offers his knowledge and expertise at Spoudason Services, a research & teaching consultancy in Bible, NT Greek, hermeneutics & theology for Bible students, SS teachers, pastors & missionaries.