Attending the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS 2012) last month in Florida, I was struck anew by how much the book selling industry has changed since I first got involved in it in the early 2000s.
The Christian book market, in particular, the Christian retail market, experienced its heyday in the very late 20th century and the very beginning of the 21st century. However, the physical retail industry has been on a downward slide since about 2005.
Much of this has to do with our changing culture. People read less. Technology is exploding. As a result, people buy more books via the Internet and fewer take the time to actually visit a physical bookstore.
The Great Recession has not helped matters either. Since late 2008, our economy has struggled severely. Retail stores of all sorts have gone out of business and the Christian retail market has not been immune to this. The book market in particular has been hit hard. Consider that Borders, the second largest secular bookstore chain, closed their doors last year.
At ICRS, the decline of Christian retail was evident to industry veterans. Yes, good products were still available. Yes, popular authors and personalities still made appearances. However, for those repeat ICRS attendees like me, the decreased attendance was evident.
Lines to meet best-selling authors were not as long. For the most part, vendors (publishers) were not giving away costly marketing gimmicks like USB drives, computer bags, and clothing items. However, most telling was the attendance for the Newsboys concert.
The Newsboys are a popular Christian contemporary music band. They perform concerts across the United States and have no problem selling tickets. PureFlix, a Christian movie producer, brought the Newsboys to ICRS as part of their promotional efforts for a new movie coming out next year titled God’s Not Dead from the hit song by the Newsboys. Sadly, the concert hall was not packed. My mind harkened back to a similar concert giving at ICRS in 2005 to promote a new book by Beth Moore. The concert hall at that show had standing room only.
Why am I writing this?
To remind myself and you that we are in tough times. While producing books has become economically feasible for almost anyone, selling these books has become much harder. Not only is the Great Recession still in our midst, but our country and culture are undergoing some radical changes. We, as authors and publishers, must first recognize these changes, and then adapt ourselves and our methods to this new economy and culture if we want to continue selling books.