Are Christian Bookstores Necessary?

Rebecca LuElla Miller wrote an interesting blog yesterday. She said she went to her local Christian bookstore to purchase the latest Donita K. Paul book, DragonFire. Rebecca wrote that the bookstore did not carry this particular book, although they did carry the first three books of the dragon series. She commented on the small number of fantasy books she DID find on the bookshelves, but she found it odd to not find Paul’s latest book. Rebecca concluded that, if fantasy readers want to find fantasy books stocked on the bookshelves, we’d have to verbalize our desires to the store managers. Only then would they begin stocking more fantasy titles.

I can’t argue with Rebecca’s thoughts. All bookstores, including the Christian ones, are out to make a profit, so they’re unlikely to carry books that MIGHT NOT sell well. I hate to face the fact that fantasy does not sell as well as prairie romances or end-times thrillers. And I’m grateful that managers are willing to order a book, just for me, if I can’t find it on the shelf.

But I’ve got say that all the Christian fantasy books I’m interested in reading are available for purchase on-line. I’ve even seen them in ABA bookstores. The last time I ventured into a Christian bookstore, I found myself surrounded by figurines, greeting cards, wall art, music, toys, and clothing. The management had dedicated less than half the store to books, and most of those were non-fiction and Bibles. And I did not find the title I wanted. I stopped at Borders on my way home and found my book in the Christian section.

I don’t often find myself needing a Christian neck tie or a Veggie Tales stuffed toy. I don’t feel more sanctified wearing “John 3:16” socks. I find “Christianized” candy bars – with verses inside the wrappers – downright annoying (as if I can’t read my Bible without the accompanying chocolate). And I abhor the idea of spending twice as much money on an item from the Christian bookstore just to show my financial support to business owners who happen to be Christians. I enjoy supporting businesses ran by others of like faith, but not when they jack up the profit margin to take advantage of their “Christianity.” 

Maybe they’re not all like that. Maybe it’s the un-churched area I live in. Maybe it’s just my twisted view and I’ve got it all wrong. The bottom line, though, is that in today’s retail world, the titles I want are available in convenient places, so I don’t find myself visiting the local Christian Bookstore anymore. On the other hand, I’d love to see fantasy become as profitable as prairie romances. If the bookstores would stock fantasy titles, maybe more people would pick up a copy and find themselves hooked. Once sales pick up, fantasy would become a regular item on the bookshelves.

It’s a conundrum. It’s more convenient for me to order on-line and have a book delivered to my doorstep. But if I want to introduce a larger population of Christian readers to fantasy, maybe I should get myself down to my local bookstore and beg them to take a chance on something that might not move off the shelf. I’ll just keep my mouth shut about changing the name of the store to “Christian Gift Shop.”


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