Inside MAI Blog: Thoughts on global publishing

Maintaining a presence

First-quarter sales for the Borders bookstore chain dropped 15.8 percent, according to a May 27 Publishers Weekly report, calling the decreasing revenues a “familiar trend.”

These are challenging times for bookstores. That’s at least partly because we’re doing more book-buying on the internet. I do like the convenience of ordering books with the click of a few keys. But there's much to be said for a physical location where we can hold, touch, page and browse the books  on the market.

Maybe this is especially true for Christian bookstores in sensitive countries. A young man from Saudi Arabia walked past a Christian bookstore in Amman, Jordan, and saw an open Bible in the shop window. He spotted the words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” and felt a strange stirring inside. Without his family knowing, he went back later to the bookstore later and bought a New Testament. Soon after, he committed his life to Christ.

(Strikingly, a Venezuelan friend had exactly the same experience. On her lunch break, she walked past a Christian bookstore and saw the same "come...all you who are weary" verse in an open Bible in the shop window. She turned to faith that same day and later quit her job to work in a Christian bookstore.) 

A staff member in a Christian bookstore in Lebanon told me that visitors from Middle Eastern countries closed to Christianity sometimes visit the shop, trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible. Some of them will occasionally buy a Bible or Christian books with the comment, “Please don’t tell anyone.”

I guess the key in Christian publishing and bookselling is maintaining a presence—be it physical or digital, where people can find the publication and the message. Otherwise, how will they hear Jesus say, “Come to me”? 

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