Why create an alternative to commercial publishing?

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.

  1. #1 by J morgun on June 15, 2006 - 5:10 pm


    I think marketting in Christian Books and resources has really dominated how the church sees itself. Looking at a christian bookstore, one might be fooled into thinking that all christians are white, middle class married with 2.5 children… Books and resources are marketted to those who can afford to buy them. We fool ourselves into thinking that their is particular “Christian lifestyle” or “Christian culture” that we should take part in. It also trains us to view those who don’t fit (the vast majority of christians) the marketted image of a Christian as outsiders, and we question their validity as a brother or sister. This spills over into missions, evangelism etc because all of these resources are used by churches for such endevours. It’s really quite scary.

  2. #2 by Greg T. on June 22, 2006 - 7:33 am

    FYI–This is something that the Lutheran Church has been doing for a long time. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod had its own publishing house that is responsible for publishing the worship, educational, and academic resources for use-Concordia Publishing House. (www.cph.org)

    God bless.

  3. #3 by Leighton Tebay on June 23, 2006 - 9:04 am

    Greg T:

    I took a look at the site. It looks to be a website that sells stuff. A standard denominational publishing house. I don’t see any web based collaborative projects or open sharing. Am I missing something?

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