One morning this week, Mrs. H asked me to check on something she'd heard on the radio. Apparently, Family Bookstores (formerly Zondervan) were closing their doors.
me first say that there's a terrible aspect any time any legitimate
business has to shutter itself. Thousands of workers will now be without
jobs. Our economy is currently in a state where many will be able to
find new jobs quickly. Others won't be affected much because their job
with Family Bookstores was only a sidelight. But that won't erase the
fact that some of the laid off workers will undergo significant stress
in the coming months.
said, the cynical side of me wants to say that Family Bookstores has
only itself to blame for whatever suffering its workers endure because
of the store closings. They sure didn't do much to earn the right to
stay open, and that's where the sting of this post will begin.
I have one of these stores not a mile from where I live. I have never ceased to be amazed by how petty much of the stock is. I don't just mean the endless supply of Precious Moments figurines, useless trinkets, and Testamints. I also mean row upon row of useless garbage on the bookshelves. Christian romance novels. Self-help books. End times fiction, most of it badly written. (There was once a time when they had several rows with nothing but Left Behind material.)
needed a shovel and a telescope to find anything that would disciple
Christians in this mess. (No, Joyce Meyer doesn't count, sorry.)
Apologetics books in particular were scarce, and they were mixed in with
end times speculation works. You had a few of the usual unqualified
popular preachers doing their thing, but overall, you may as well have
discipled yourself with Disney cartoons.
of course, there were Bibles in plenty. One to suit every need. My
poodle Cocoa approves of the Playful Puppies Bible in particular. Family Bookstores, however, otherwise fed us a steady diet of spiritual junk food, so it's no shock that they couldn't keep the business going. Junk food diets don't lead to return customers, because part of that allure is always looking for new types of junk food to stave off boredom with the old types of junk food.
broader forces at work here, too, such as the inevitable move to
e-books which has people so attached to their Kindles that they wouldn't
recognize a print copy of something if it bit them on the nose. ("What
is that thing? Some sort of butterfly?") But in the end, most of the
blame lies at the feet of those who worked so hard to make Family
Bookstores "relevant" that they treated "thou shalt be relevant" as one
of the Ten Commandments.
And my cynical side says, it couldn't have happened to a nicer store.