The relatively unregarded backwaters of Christian bookselling were churned up (again) yesterday when the leading wholesaler CLC, and Eden.co.uk, the largest specialist UK online Christian e-tailer announced a shared property deal in Chester.
So will this muddy the water or make for a healthier environment for all involved in Christian books?
I would suggest that this is a smart move for both Eden & CLC and will have tangible benefits for physical bookshops and their customers. But to see the opportunities that could come from this move require us to lift our heads up and look at what else is happening in the wider swampland of the Christian book world. When we do, we see the choppy waters that exist elsewhere:-
- We see the changes in media & reading culture with social communities and immediate engagement on new platforms.
- We see people reading more, but differently. In shorter pieces and different formats.
- We see the changes in retail of where and how people are choosing to buy their reading material.
- We see a church resourcing itself differently using new mediums of podcasting, blogging and social media – which aren’t replacing book reading, but they are significantly eating into the time that a lot of people would have spent in books.
- We see church leaders not recommending books in the way they used to.
- We see books losing their place as the sole repository for clearing thinking as the world look for an immediate response to issues.
- With the rise of self-publishing we see the credibility factor of books reducing. (That’s not to say all commercially books are good, and self-published are bad, it’s the rules of the selection game have changed, and it’s more difficult to sift through the pile)
All this means that the visibility of the traditional Christian book is reduced in the eyes of the buyer, so whilst acknowledging the challenges facing each individual business, the greater challenges to Christian books come from these changes and not a trade partnership between two key players who wisely decided to share a location, minimise their overheads to allow them to be more financially viable and to focus on their key task of selling Christian products.
It will mean that suppliers should be able to improve the availability of products, which will speed up delivery. A new CLC warehouse isn’t a trade panacea, they are a wholesaler not a distributor, so by definition they will still make their stock decisions based on demand, but a new warehouse will give them a capacity they haven’t had before. It will give Eden a chance (I presume) to offer same day dispatch and access as well to this larger range, which gives them more power to fight off the Amazon onslaught.