While the economic downturn may help increase religious involvement (see the article that follows), it is having a strongly negative impact on religious publishing, reports the Christian Century (May 5).
Even if the demand for religious literature is there, the retailing end of religious publishing has been as adversely affected by the current economic problems as any other business. It is the retail end of religious publishing that is affecting the supply of these books; bookstore closings and reductions in store inventories are forcing publishers to be “nimble in present and future demands,” writes Marcia Z. Nelson.
Non-denominational Christian publishers, such as Eerdmans, Baker, and InterVarsity Press, have all faced cutbacks in their operations. Denominational publishing has the benefit of offering a diversity of resources outside of bookstore venues (such as Sunday school literature) and has not faced as many difficulties. But financially strapped bookstores that sell denominational publications, such as Cokebury and seminary outlets, do impact the sales of such literature.
Nelson writes that the “downturn in bricks-and-mortar operations” has compelled such major denominational houses as Westminster-John Knox to deliver more content electronically. The larger religious publishers, such as Harpers One, report that their parent companies’ cutbacks have not yet adversely affected their publishing programs, though there is a general decrease in sales of religious books.
Academic publishers have the advantage of having their offerings as required reading for college courses, and a major publisher such as Oxford University Press is actually seeing growth in its religious studies area. Nelson concludes that on the “positive side of the ledger, some religion books are still selling. The Bible business remains good,” with traditional versions, such as the Scofield Reference Bible (centennial edition), as well as new-fangled ones like the Green Bible, selling well.
(The Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605)