I was having these thoughts and thought of adding them in yesterday’s post, Are Bookstore Chain Closures Necessarily A BAD Thing?, but decided to cut it off at the point where I did and continue my thoughts in different direction in separate post. Blaming electronic books and online stores for the decrease in sales for brick and mortar stores would be like blaming online schools for the decline in physically attending a college or university.
The thing that worries me the most about this story about Borders closing all its stores, is how many Christians and churches tend to not really ‘get it’ when it comes to changing trends and technological shifts. When it comes to understanding culture, they/we tend to understand it even less, it seems. But looking at the changing world of publishing first, in order to frame my analogy for where I’m going with my thoughts let me say that one thing that bugs me about the article I read about the Borders closing, is this quote:
The loss of Borders may also make it more difficult for new writers to be discovered. “The liquidation of Borders is an irreplaceable loss of a big part of the book-discovery ecosystem,” said Michael Norris, a senior analyst at Simba Information, a unit of MarketResearch.com “Thousands of people whose job consisted of talking up and selling books will eventually being doing something else, and that’s bad for authors, agents, and everyone associated with the value chain in books.”
The unfortunate thing about this quote, is that the author and the person being quoted clearly don’t “get it” either. I’ve never heard of new books through them in the “book discovery ecosystem”. I’ve seen buzz online in the blogosphere and on social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and now Google Plus (think Rob Bell or Francis Chan’s books on Hell). They needed to adapt to the growing change in the way its customers are reading their books–online, and yet they seem, by comments like this, to have missed it. All of these people mentioned talking about and selling books don’t have to be “doing something else” instead, but merely change where and how they were doing this job for the once-mighty bookstore chain. If anything, the proliferation of the internet has NOT been bad for authors, it just has leveled the playing field a lot and provided more opportunity for people to get out there. Look at author John Locke, who has become the eighth person in history to sell a million copies of an e-book on Amazon.
What Is A “Book”?
I recently asked here on my blog and at Fire Press the following question:
What is a “real” book? It wasn’t until the printing press was invented that it helped revolutionize the way information was spread. Historians even differ on if it was invented to help propagate the Bible and get it into the hands of the common man, or to help spread Catholic propaganda, like indulgences. But at any rate, for most of Church history, after the first century, the believer was not able to turn to a book and read the words of Christ. Only the elite few clergy and rich people had access to these types of materials. Is a book only a book if it’s on paper, or on an electronic device?
Printing books was a revolutionary technology of its day, and in a similar way, today that would apply to almost all things digital. One day maybe hundreds of years from now if the human race goes that long, people may look back on what we think was cutting edge, and laugh at the improvements they’ve made on devices we are just now learning to use. The speed at which change happens may be daunting and troubling to some of the older generation, but not to the ‘millennial generation’, as my generation – those born between 1980 and 2000– are being dubbed in some circles. Those of us who’ve grown up with this rapid progression of changes to all things technological, are not daunted by it because we’re used to it.
So Why Don’t Many Pastors and Leaders Try New Things?
This statement is a generalization, I realize. But as a site builder, and podcaster, I’m finding there seems to be this ‘cut off’ age where many pastors and leaders and older people are just not persuaded that THEY should jump on board and get with the program given its wide reach, and its use. Granted there are many who ARE, and I’m on a few mailing lists and follow some of them on Twitter, listen to their podcasts, and so forth. But I’ve noticed many many who don’t.
Some, but as I said–not all, but many–stubbornly cling to their old ways of doing things, no matter how increasingly irrelevant some methods and mindsets are becoming. Like the saying goes, to keep doing the same thing and expect different results is insanity. Nor am I saying technological innovation in itself is an end, but rather a tool and a means to an end. It should supplement our efforts at reaching, impacting and making disciples. I highly recommend a good post by Mike Breen at his discipleship blog, where in a recent post he stated some interesting points I’m going to borrow for this post:
With the American church shrinking in size and influence, innovation is undoubtedly needed. The stats to support the church’s decline have been well documented. Only 15% of Gen X and only 4 % of Gen Y regularly attend a Sunday service. Moreover, 62% of Americans say they would never go to a church service…
Yet the innovation that’s required is for new methods to reach the 62% who aren’t likely candidates for a worship service conversion. A re-imagining is required of how the Church can incarnate in a way that is relevant to that growing segment. So my first challenge for Christian leaders is to think of innovation beyond technological means. ((Why Does Church Innovation = Technology part 1 http://mikebreen.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/why-does-church-innovation-technology-part-1/))
I agree with the stuff Breen goes on to say this post, and the second part which he just recently posted, and shared some of my thoughts a few weeks ago in my post “Would Jesus Go Viral?”
My generation, the Millennials, are fixing to be the largest generation in America’s history, and in some other nations around the world. If you haven’t had a chance yet, I highly recommend giving the book by Thom & Jess Rainer called The Millennials a read. You can get it on Kindle, that’s how I read it, but I’m sure it exists in the archaic form of an ‘actual’ book in stores.