Hope for the Christian bookstore

Derek Ouellette —  January 7, 2013

The writing has been on the wall of the Christian bookstore – actually, bookstores in general – ever since 2009. I remember attending CBA in Denver, Colorado, where the obvious question on everybody’s mind was: does the Christian bookstore have hope for a future?

I remember Ed Stetzer took the platform and delivered a motivating and inspirational talk about how the doom of the Christian bookstore thanks to ebooks was highly bloated. It sounded nice at the time. But then everybody went back home, and back to their local bookstores where reality seemed to burst our bubbles.

The message: find a way to adapt or drown in despair.

Since then, Foundation Distribution, a Canadian Christian Distributor, has been working on a way to bring small bookstores across the country together through their site to enable small stores to benefit from ebook sales.

On December 17, 2012 a new tablet was launched specifically for Christian bookstores called Myeebo. This device is exciting. It is a full colour tablet with an 8 inch screen and front and rear cameras. It is fully integrated with Facebook and Twitter and carries apps from normally mutually exclusive platforms such as iOS, Android (already offer 500,000+), and Kindle stores, offering features not available on Kindle and Nook devices. The price point – only $179, isn’t too bad either.

But there’s more. With how fast technology moves, the ebook revolution may already be coming to maturity, and it’s not all that bad. Perhaps the doomsayers and death dealers and panic struck store owners and employees read the wall wrong?

An article came out in the Wall Street Journal the other day called Don’t Burn Your Books – Print Is Here to Stay. The article points out that five years ago pundits declared that the future of books was in the digital market with some claiming that the end of the print book would be as soon as 2015.

Half a decade into the e-book revolution, though, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency. The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets [like the Myeebo]. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.

The article goes on to say,

E-books, in other words, may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more disposable paperback. That would fit with the discovery that once people start buying digital books, they don’t necessarily stop buying printed ones. In fact, according to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical volumes. The two forms seem to serve different purposes.

Local bookstores still need to adapt. They still need to find a way into the ebook market (as they are). Small stores still need to plunge into an online presence.  But I think it is appropriately time to stop despairing over the future of the Christian bookstore.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.