Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Christian Book Show Kinda Bombs

What if they had a media circus and nobody came?  Apparently, the organizers of the first -- and quite possibly last -- Christian Book Expo, in Dallas, have an answer.  They anticipated a crowd of 10-20,000.  They got 1,500.

Don't get us wrong, here.  We like Christian books.  We like them a lot.  Old missals give us a great deal of joy, as do old breviaries.   We prefer our Bibles new and sturdy, ideally with strong leather bindings and none of those irritating "self-pronouncing" features.  We are in the market for a hardbound scholarly edition of Donne's Devotions, with apparatus.  And we treasure our battered copies of Susan Howatch's Starbridge novels.

That said, let's be honest.  This Expo was probably not aimed at the likes of us.  It was for devotees of The Prayer of Jabez and The Shack.  And, one assumes, the Left Behind extravaganzas.  When better books were offered -- and surely they were -- the plan was for them to piggyback on the tiresome and theologically dubious slop.  It's similar to the business plan at a record shop that sells a million Britney Spears albums, in order to provide shelf space for a dozen or so Rounder or Rhino releases.

But have you noticed there are no record stores anymore?

Per the Christian Post article linked above, the Expo seems to have been undone less by the literary quality of its books than by the fact they they were books, and not electronic publications.  The old media are dying off, beginning with the most vulnerable:  newspapers first, now niche-marketed books.  

Whatever schadenfreude we may be feeling right now (and it is not inconsiderable) is overshadowed by our fear of losing all the niches that we ourselves love.  We have been waiting years for the one good translation of Kabir to come back into print; it never will.  That footnoted Devotions?  Fat chance.  

No, the failure of the Christian Book Expo is more than another chance to lie in our hammock and mutter "Stupid Flanders."  The fact that nobody went is, curiously, a small tragedy even for many of the people who would never have gone.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

“If consumers had come, this would have been an incredible show,”

Father said...

Were you an exhibitor, or are you just saying that?

Anonymous said...

Oh no, just a quote from the article. From Michael Hyatt, chair of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and captain of the obvious.