I started pondering the pros and cons of buying Christian books online when I discovered that I could buy a book (Wayne Grudem’s ‘Systematic Theology’) for $22 cheaper online than from my local Christian bookstore.
Earlier this week, Tim Challies shared his thoughts on buying from the local Christian bookstore versus buying on Amazon. He wrote this article because:
“I regularly receive emails rebuking me for supporting Amazon by pointing readers there after I review a book. Sometimes I receive emails rebuking me for supporting any online retailer, whether that is Amazon or a Christian ecommerce bookstore. According to the people who write me, I ought to point readers to their local, community bookstores. But I am not convinced that there is an “ought” in this situation—that one option is morally superior to the other.'”
It was a good discussion, but didn’t cover all of the arguments for and against. I wrote these up when I first started to think through this topic – and here they are. What would you add to these lists?
Argument for buying books from your local Christian bookstore
- If you don’t know what you’re looking for the staff might be able to assist.
- By supporting Christian booksellers, you’re giving them a presence in your community (and unbelievers might wander in).
- Local bookstores are good for people who aren’t online.
- Local bookstores often support Christian ministries (e.g. Reformers gives 10% to a mission agency of your choice, for sales from church book stalls).
- Less chance of credit card fraud.
- No hassles with delivery issues.
- Get the book straight away (no time to wait for it to arrive – if they have it in stock).
- Relational opportunities (e.g. have a coffee at the store’s cafe, chat to the sales person).
- You can check out the book before you purchase it.
- It’s much easier to source books for a church/camp bookstall from a local store.
- If the book is published in Australia, buying locally saves emissions by avoiding the book shipping overseas (to the distributor), and then shipping back to Australia (to you).
Arguments for buying Christian books online
- The money I save from purchasing online (which can be substantial), can go to my church, or to support other ministries.
- Is the best use of our money (stewardship) to support bookstores that have high operating costs when this money could be used elsewhere?
- Free delivery (with some online stores).
- It can be easier than visiting a store (no driving, parking, etc).
- Affiliate payments can go back into ministry.
- Don’t support stores that promote themselves as Christian bookstores, but sell products from false teachers. Obviously, this isn’t all Christian bookstores.
- You’re guaranteed to get the book (often local stores don’t stock it, and it can take months for the book to arrive).
- Receive reviews from people who’ve read the book, rather than from staff who might not have read it.
- Read samples of the book online (and even download samples to your Kindle).
What would you add to this list?
Which arguments for or against hold the most weight for you?
Here’s an interesting article by Albert Mohler on ‘Why bookstores matter‘.