A major issue among religionist scholars in recent years has been why and how the Christian faith of Americans is being “globalized” by the greatly increased knowledge of other world religions.
This process, however, is a two-way street. Along with Americans absorbing world religions into their smorgasbord understanding, millions of seekers on all continents are being greatly influenced to absorb the major themes of American mainline and evangelical religious expressions. The Sept. 13 issue of Publishers Weekly presents extensive evidence showing how American publishers are responding to non-American seekers’ demands for both specific best seller titles and general, usually popular religious works.
In the last few years such giants as Baker, Zondervan, Eerdmans, Thomas Nelson, Augsburg Fortress, John Knox Westminster are building growing markets and reader demand for United States published religious books, many of which are being translated in as many as 30 languages. American publisher Richard E. Brown says “Our thinking is that academic ideas travel very well over the ocean. You’ve got to think globally. Publishers ignore that at their peril.” In a new marketing vehicle, five major United States publishers have pooled resources to create a European distribution company for English language products known as the Alban Books enterprise. Sales increases have gone from 27 percent in l996 to 31 percent the next year and a hefty 22 percent increase during the first half of l999.
Part of the success in this reverse globalization (sending United States religious ideas overseas) is due to the publishers’ ability to produce in-demand titles at a very low price. These publishers, including some American-based Jewish firms and small publishing houses, are exploring the ways in which reverse globalization can be increased through the use of the Internet.
Alongside the obvious improvement of speed in filling orders, Internet growth has eliminated the concept of exclusive territorial rights. All in all, religious book publishing is continuing to expand rapidly, as it has in the last two decades, by using technology and electronic evangelism to spread the reverse globalizing of the faith. A Tyndale House official concludes, “It’s a fine line between ministry and business.” Some firms have lowered royalty fees to make books more affordable in overseas markets.
— By Erling Jorstad