Much of the talk about an evangelical resurgence is based on impressions and guesses. However, one objectively measurable sign of growth is to be found in the religious book industry. Last month the Christian Booksellers Association held its annual convention in Denver with more than 700 suppliers exhibiting their wares. Seven years earlier they had also met in Denver. Then there were just about 1,000 member stores; now there are more than 2,400 in the United States and another 250 elsewhere. Store sales have been increasing by more than 15 per cent each year, well ahead of both inflation and what other small retailers have done. The industry as a whole, including mass market paperback and book club sales, is estimated to be doing about $600 million worth of business a year.

But is this good? Not entirely. Much of what is spent on books and the other items carried in Christian bookstores could be put to better uses. An area that I hesitate to criticize is the sale of Bibles, which provides about one-fourth of the income of CBA member stores.

Other books of various kinds account for about 40 to 45 per cent of store sales. Just as foods differ widely both in nutritional value and in taste appeal, so do books. There is, to put it bluntly, a lot of “junk food” on the bookrack. Junk books aren’t grossly heretical; they won’t poison you. But the money and time they consume could be used far more profitably. Let’s remember, however, that lamentations over the quality of literature have always been with us. There was no golden age of books when only pearls were purveyed. The fact is that there are more good books for Christians now than ever before. One of the principle purposes of this magazine is to ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: