Last week I went out to buy a Bible for a dedication gift. I had no idea it would be so difficult.
Since Wilson's only dedicated bookstore, Books A Million, closed months ago, I knew I would have to go to a discount or department store to buy a Bible or any other book. I headed for Target, which I knew had a books section. There were books in the book section all right, ranging from children's books to "Fifty Shades of Gray," but no Bibles.
I told my wife of my dilemma, and she said I should go to Wal-Mart. She had seen Bibles there. So I paid my first visit to Wal-Mart in many months and found the book section, such as it was. But the selection of Bibles was pitifully limited. Refusing to give up, I remembered where I had seen a Christian bookstore and went there. Over to one side, an area overwhelmed by the inspirational books, inspirational cards, decorations, signs and what-not, I found the Bible section. The store had a relatively large number of Bibles, nearly all of them of the King James translation or a modern paraphrase version. After looking over the selection, I selected a hardbound copy and bought it.
The experience left me wondering whether Bible sales were down. It seemed to me they'd have to be. With the demise of big-box bookstores and community bookstores, there are simply fewer places to buy a Bible. And obviously the big-box discounters aren't pushing Bible sales. I looked for some statistics to back up my theory, but I found none. The people who track bestsellers don't track sales of the Bible or the Koran. Some estimate that more than 6 billion copies of the Bible have been printed and sold, but the statistics seem a little squishy. What I hoped to find was an annual comparison of Bible sales over the past 20 or 30 years. Surely, someone must be counting, but Google could not help me with that.
Nevertheless, I came away with the strong impression that Bible sales must be declining and that those that are sold are likely from outlets catering to the religiously zealous. The average consumer could shop for weeks and weeks and never see a Bible on a shelf. It's little wonder that biblical illiteracy is rampant with few Americans able to understand biblical allusions or metaphors. Bibles are not mainstream consumer products any more.