Why create an alternative to commercial publishing?
A few years ago I was sitting in church with some LDS (Mormon) Missionaries had invited. We were enjoying the singing and one of them asked me if someone in the church had written the song we were singing. The particular song we were singing had been written by the “worship” pastor. I explained that most of the time we don’t sing songs that someone in the church has written. My LDS friend asked how we figure out which songs we are going to sing. I explained that we listened to CDs and the songs we like we sing. In the process of the conversation I thought through how the LDS church would do it and compared it to how the evangelical world does it.
Then and there it dawned on me that the evangelical church has uncritically adopted the free market as its sole model for the publishing and distribution of church resources. I’m not ideologically opposed to anyone making money. I am a business owner myself. I think that the people who write books or songs should be able to feed their families.
I believe there are some weaknesses in the system. Intellectual property allows corporations get paid for other people’s work long after the work is done. A few decades ago some translators did a lot of work to translate the New International Version of the bible. Those people who have done the work of organizing the project and translating have been paid. The text is now the intellectual property of a corporation. If I want the electronic text of this bible for my Treo 600 (Palm PDA/Phone) I have to pay $24.95. There is no paper to glue together. Distribution costs literally pennies worth of bandwidth. I can buy the same paper bible for $5.99 on Amazon.com. Friends there is something very wrong about this. What we pay no longer has anything to do with the cost of production, publishing and distribution. This is a huge waste. I think we’ve uncritically assumed our rights as intellectual property owners when they seem to fly in the face of New Testament principles of sharing for the common good.
We are susceptible to the manipulation of marketing. How many nearly useless fads in the church were fanned in to flame by slick marketing? We trust the publishing companies to do the proper discernment but their #1 criteria is marketability. This criteria will weed out the crazies and some of the crap but it is by no means an adequate filter. I can’t spend more than 10 minutes in a Christian bookstore because I’m just overwhelmed at all the garbage in there.
I believe it is time for the church to pursue an alternative way to create, distribute and discern the value of resources.