Home > Uncategorized > Blogger’s Nostagic Memory of Christian Bookstores Sparks Non-Sympathetic Comments

Blogger’s Nostagic Memory of Christian Bookstores Sparks Non-Sympathetic Comments

Blogging legend Tim Challies

Blogging legend Tim Challies

As the owner of a publishing venture, you’d expect Canadian uber-blogger Tim Challies to have opinions about the industry in which some of us still serve.  An internal search for the phrase “Christian bookstores” at Challies.com produces 200 results.  His latest — and it must be hard to come up with new topics on a daily basis — is more of a “down memory lane piece” remembering his earliest visits to such a store and how his early purchases influenced him positively.

The comments that followed were not necessarily kind. One reader offered a great deal of animosity toward the Christian bookstore industry:

I say good riddance. I’m sure someone who lived in the horse-and-buggy transition period could have talked about some of what we’ve lost when we moved to cars. In that case too the consumer’s win was the horse-and-buggy seller’s loss. But that’s a loss that serves the society as a whole in the end. The horse-and-buggy seller needs to get into the car business if he wants a similar vein of work. Likewise, the Christian bookstore industry needs to move online. Some of them already have, obviously, and there is a lot more that could be said here… But in the end what we’ve gained far far outweighs what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained could have never been accommodated by the old guard. No local Christian bookstore (or bookstore, period) could have given me the range, quality, and price of books that I now have through Amazon.

I’ve heard this logic before. It goes like this: “If the railroads had seen themselves as being in the transportation business instead of in the railroad business, today they would own the airlines.” But it’s an argument that doesn’t always work. When the airlines were introduced, and trans-Atlantic flight was reduced from 6 days to 6 hours, the ocean liners simply repositioned themselves as cruise ships; moving people in a circle instead of from point A to point B.

And many Christian bookstores function as a marketplace extension of the local church, which, last time I checked, is doing more in-person ministry than online ministry.

One reader attempts to point out what we’ve pointed out here, namely that the philosophy and priorities of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos are at odds with orthodox Christianity:

Your supporting a huge multinational corporation that hates you just to save a few dollars. Repent

But blogger Tim Challies simply won’t be swayed by that — he knows on which side his bread is buttered — and replies:

[I’d delete this, but the combination of hubris and bad grammar is too entertaining. Don’t feed the trolls. -Moderator]

(For the record, if you make the you’re/your mistake here, we just correct it for you.)

The original commenter simply laughs in the face of any kind of moral reasoning:

Lol… And why should I think it is sinful to support a huge multinational corporation? Or why think it’s sinful to support someone who hates me (granting for sake of argument that Amazon hates me)? And it’s not just that they save me some dollars. They also provide me with a great selection of books and a convenient service that I couldn’t get elsewhere.

And you think that calls for repentance? I sincerely hope you’re just being satirical of those who confuse the gospel with a progressivist economic theory.

We covered some of the politics of Amazon here in March with this article.

Fortunately, much like some poisonous animals, the commenter in question runs out of venom and leaves the discussion, and the things that follow from about the half-way mark make for more balanced reading, including comments from people who have worked in or are currently employed in Christian bookstores.

Tim Challies blog has a large enough following that he can write a summer ‘filler’ piece and still be assured of comments. You might want to read it, but the arrogance of the one bookstore detractor is extremely distressing as is Tim’s refusal to take a moral high ground and join the Christian minority who actually care about where they spend their money.

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  1. August 24, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Challies lost the plot when it comes to supporting Christian bookstores a good couple of years ago, so we can hardly expect him to take up their cause today. Here’s what he wrote back in 2011, The Local Christian Bookstore:

    Let me be brutally honest: Visiting a local Christian bookstore feels like visiting a has-been business (as is the case with pretty much any other bookstore). The whole publishing industry is changing and the little family-owned Christian bookstore seems to be increasingly obsolete. And at least as it pertains to me, I don’t think I will lose anything when the last local Christian bookstore has closed its doors. I feel guilty saying that and I truly feel for the people who own those stores. But unless they can radically change what they do and how they do it, I don’t see most of them making it in this new world.

    • August 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

      This would probably temper my enthusiasm for carrying anything in print he or his publishing company releases in future. Talk about biting the hand…

  2. August 24, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Hmmm… comment in haste, repent at leisure… have now read his more recent article and it does look like something of a change of heart as he now writes,

    I believe, I hope, there will always be a place for such stores. I hope they will find a way to adapt, survive and to thrive, even while selling good material. Their disappearance will be our loss.

    I’ll say a wholehearted Amen! to that.

  3. August 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Very entertaining, Phil! Your (sic) a legend. On a serious note, it’s a pity the original post and subsequent comments was restricted to Christian bookshops – which immediately brings into play a whole subset of prejudices. It’s an issue faced by all booksellers, authors and publishers – and in the end, readers, too, whose ‘range of reading choices’ will eventually be affected when authors can’t afford to write and publishers to publish anymore.

    • August 28, 2013 at 9:26 am

      Yes, this issue affects the broader publishing spectrum. Readers here fall into a specific category, but thanks for your comment; feel free to chime in anytime.

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