FIRST-PERSON: Curling up with the Good Book
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP)--Fifteen years ago, Amazon.com was all the buzz. You could go online, order a book, pay a discounted price, and receive the book in a few days. While bibliophiles rejoiced, bookstore owners were getting nervous. Was this the end of the brick-and-mortar bookstore? Were people going to use their computers instead of their cars to seek out new books?
Most bookstores joined the online world to take advantage of Internet sales while continuing to see their bookstore sales increase as well. Five years ago, Barnes & Noble's in-store sales were $4.5 billion compared to their online sales of $440 million.
At that time, $8 million dollars was the total in-store sales for Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Borders, and Waldenbooks, compared to Amazon.com's $3 billion for online media sales. Those four major brick-and-mortar chains, plus the two major online outlets (Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com) generated $11.5 billion in media sales.
Here's an example of how bookstores are holding their own against online distributors. In Charlotte, N.C., there's a huge Barnes & Noble store. It has two floors, 31,000 square feet, and more than 200,000 book, magazine, music, and movie titles -- plus more plush sofas and armchairs than a furniture store, along with the ubiquitous Starbucks and deli.
This bookstore was the anchor client in a "Lifestyle Center" at a major metropolitan mall. That says a lot about the place of books in the life of the average American.
Let's face it -- something has been proven about the role of books in people's lives over the last few decades. Compare what it takes to buy a bestseller online versus at your local brick-and-mortar bookstore:
-- Online: Order at home in your pajamas; unlimited selection; read reviews by other readers; get suggestions on similar books; pay a discounted price (often free shipping); eat while you shop; have the book delivered to your door; and the whole deal takes under 10 minutes.
-- At the store: Get dressed, drive through traffic, find a parking place; limited selection, possibly out of stock; hopefully find a clerk to help you; pay retail; drive home; takes an hour-plus of your day.
With the obvious advantages, people are buying lots of books online as well as for electronic download. But in spite of the disadvantages, people are still flocking to the new "lifestyle" bookstores in record numbers! Why?
It's because of the warm-and-fuzzy factor of taking a bestseller in your hands, smelling the new-paper smell, gently cracking open the binding, and settling into a deep reading chair with a cup of coffee and a brownie -- that's why!
Now before you accuse me of being a stockholder in a bookstore chain, trying to encourage you to go spend your money there ... I'm not. But I am trying to encourage you to do something else.
More than plush armchairs and brownies, there's another reason we love to go to the bookstore in search of the latest bestseller or other books. It's because we were born to read. "Words" are the way God has revealed Himself to us -- the written Word and the Living Word, Jesus Christ. If we are going to know God, we are going to have to be readers.
Are you taking full advantage of the most exciting reading opportunity? The best "bestseller" of all time is available to you: God's bestseller, the Bible.
From Genesis to Revelation, there are 66 books that touch every theme found on the shelves of a major bookstore: drama, romance, biography, military history, theology, church history, ancient Near Eastern history, geography, marriage and family, future world events, self-help, and humor (yes, humor -- have you read Jonah lately?).
And the best part is, you already own all 66 of these books! You can curl up with a bestseller -- make that the bestseller -- any time you like. You've got the armchair, the books, the coffee, and cookies -- so what are you waiting for? Instead of going online or to the mall for a good book, grab the Good Book. Rediscover why you were born to read.
David Jeremiah is the founder of the radio and television program "Turning Point for God," and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.