The decline of Christian bookstores

FamilyChristianStoresAppletonWisconsinThe biggest Christian bookstore chain, Family Christian Stores, is going out of business.  Then again, mostly what it carried was Christian knick-knacks.

As for books, the top 20 Christian bestsellers last year included, the words of one observer,  “three versions of Sarah Young’s controversial Jesus Calling, two kids joke books, two adult coloring books, titles by HGTV stars and athletes, and, of course, the latest from Joel Osteen.”

Better Christian books are still selling, largely on Amazon, but they often aren’t even carried by Christian retailers.

Then again, all brick and mortar bookstores are having a rough time.  Having put small mom and pop shops out of business, the big chains are now struggling against online sales.  Borders is gone, and Barnes & Noble is having a rough time, kept alive mainly by its own online offerings.

I regret the closing of bookstores.  There are still some excellent Christian bookstores, such as Wichita’s Eighth Day Bookstore (which also sells books online).  But Christians and the general public are still reading, helped too by Kindle and other readers that can download books instantly.

An article in Christianity Today, linked after the jump. argues that the end of Christian Retail that trades mostly in “Jesus junk” is not necessarily a bad thing.

From Kate Shellnut, Farewell, Jesus Junk? Christian Retail Finds a Deeper Purpose | Christianity Today:

At the start of this year, author Jared C. Wilson tweeted a list of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s 100 best-selling books of 2016. Among the titles in the top 20: three versions of Sarah Young’s controversial Jesus Calling, two kids joke books, two adult coloring books, titles by HGTV stars and athletes, and, of course, the latest from Joel Osteen.

Wilson called the rankings “proof American evangelicalism traffics mainly in superficiality, sentimentalism, and superstition.” Hundreds of fellow evangelicals chimed in to speculate about the list and point fingers at the church, the shoppers, and the stores selling these titles—as well as offer suggestions for better books out there.

When America’s biggest Christian chain, Family Christian Stores, announced last month that it would be shutting its doors, a small number of Christian bookstore cynics brought up similar critiques over the shallower content its stores promoted alongside Bibles and Christian classics. The speculated silver lining: Did Family Christian’s closure mean consumers were turning away from the celebrity books, inspirational titles, and “Jesus junk”?

[Keep reading. . .]

Photo by self (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

About Gene Veith

I am a retired English professor and college administrator. I have written over 20 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.