E-book sales may be growing, but ink-on-paper reading has a healthy future
With the changes book publishing faces, especially in light of what’s happened to the music industry, I am frequently asked, “Are physical books a thing of the past?” I am always quick to say that books are more current than ever. Still, publishers, retailers and consumers are unnerved about the future of books and bookstores.
As background for my optimistic outlook, we chose to launch Worthy, likely the newest publisher, right in the middle of one of the greatest economic and political crises of our lifetimes. That said, my experience in Christian publishing over the last twenty years gives me reason to believe the sky is not falling on the book industry and that opportunities are still alive.
Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a seventh grader I remember sitting in the aisles of a nearby college library during the summer break reading everything you could imagine. I passed that love of books along to my children, including “date days” with my daughter. She and I would often browse in a bookstore together—leisurely noting particular titles or passages for books we found interesting, using those moments as a basis for discussions we both remember years later.
As a young publisher, I was brought to Word Publishing in the late 1980s during some tough days. Then, in the mid-90s, Word was acquired by Thomas Nelson, which brought unsettling changes including a move for many of our staff from Dallas to Nashville. Yet from early on we were honored to sign and publish many best-selling authors, including Billy Graham, Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, Barbara Johnson, John Maxwell, Frank Peretti, James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Frank Peretti, and so many others. Though turbulent at times, God still worked amazingly.
Leaving Nelson, we launched Integrity Publishers, ironically moving into our first office on 9/11/2001 as reports of terrorist firestorms rang out. Despite the ensuing market crash, we experienced great receptivity for Christian books and found wider distribution through new channels. God continued to work through books more mightily than ever.
Now, as Worthy Publishing enters its first full year of commerce in 2012, I see parallels with the past. Economic crisis, unpredictable retail patterns, and shifts in sales volume from traditional channels to new technology, keep us wide-eyed. When will I ever learn that each decade will undoubtedly bring its own new set of changes – and that in the long-run God will use change to expand the reach of the Gospel? I’m convinced that more people are reading books today than ever in history, though maybe in different ways than before.
I believe, contrary to some, that Christian books will remain relevant for the long haul and next week I will share with you three reasons why.