We are programmed, aren’t we, to attribute bookstore closings to some aspect of the decline of the book or reading. But I don’t think this is always the right reaction. Bookstores in specialized areas seem to be doing OK, and among these niches one would have thought that Christian books would have been one of the safer areas (in the USA at least). Nevertheless Ink, Bits, & Pixels brings us a story about the impending bankruptcy of Family Christian Stores, the largest Christian book selling chain in America with 270 branches. A commentator is quoted as saying “They shot themselves in the foot so many small ways over so long a time”, a charming image. I see them sitting there with a BB gun (air gun, in UK) aimed at their corporate toes.

Reading the piece we can see that financial problems resulting from a debt burden assumed at the start of their ownership have lead to a progressive diminution of the range of materials stocked. Surely deciding to cut back on your Bible offerings cannot be a wise move: yes, they cost a lot to inventory — but surely that’s sort of why you’re there in the first place. Once you start down that slope, it’s probably very hard to stop the slide. It appears that they do offer books for sale on-line, which I think is a sine-qua-non for bookstore survival these days. Competing with Amazon is of course not easy, but you’d have thought that a motivated group like FCS’s customer-base would have been reachable. It sounds as if they want to do a deal with their church, and stick publishers and other suppliers with most of that debt. Whatever the legality, this doesn’t strike one as an outstanding example of Christian charity.

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