It seems that SPCK, a Christian publishing firm and chain of booksellers, has been having trouble lately. Following a takeover from a charitable trust, various changes have been made to the management that have unsettled things to the extent that vast numbers of shop staff are resigning, and the chain looks as though it might go under. I won't go into all the ins and outs (of which you can read more here and here), but I was rather struck by one of the quotes on the Cartoon Church blog:
“Every time someone buys from Amazon, rather than from a bookshop, that is
another nail in the coffin of a Christian retailer.” - Wesley Owen* Spokesperson
This made me feel a bit of a pang of guilt, given that I have used Amazon on more than one occasion to purchase 'Christian' books. So, I went to have a look at the SPCK online catalogue to see what they had in the way of youth ministry resources.
What I found was...nothing really. Which isn't to say that they don't sell anything I would want to buy, but that their website is rubbish. The only options are to look at 'New Releases', 'Bestsellers' or to do a search for titles, authors or publishers. There is a 'category' search, but you have to use one of their predefined terms which, although containing a wide range from 'Adventists' to 'Zoroastrianism', manages to completely omit 'youthwork' or 'youth ministry'. So how am I supposed to find anything, if I don't know that it exists in the first place? How are you supposed to browse? At least Wesley Owen's site allow you to do that.
It doesn't take a genius to make a business useful to its customers. And much as it would be sad to see the demise of a Christian bookshop chain, it doesn't seem that they want to actually help their customers. So what should I, as a Good ChristianTM, do to help keep them afloat? I guess the only option is to do my browsing on Amazon, and then search by title on the SPCK site, and buy the books at a higher price. I'm not really convinced, though, that a business should rely so heavily on Christian charity to keep its head above water.
*Another Christian bookshop chain.