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All SPCK shops to close

Working, as I do, in the book trade, I got a heads-up this morning of fairly monumental proportions for the church in the United Kingdom. One of the bookshop managers for SPCK cancelled their usual appointment with one of my colleagues earlier today since she has been told that SPCK will be closing all its shops over the next few months due to STL pulling out of the SPCK/STL deal.

There has been no press release yet, but undoubtedly there will be soon. I get the impression that some managers at least will fight to stay open – some of them will look for alternative sources of funding and maybe go independent.

SPCK is the oldest Anglican mission agency, founded in 1698, but these days they seem to be about publishing and the selling of books through their two very distinct arms. It’s been well-known in the trade that the bookshops had been losing money for years, only propped up by SPCK’s considerable wealth from historic legacies.

I guess it should say lots of things to us. Firstly, and most obviously, it would appear that the way in which we buy books is changing. Almost all of my purchases these days come from Amazon or Church House Bookshop‘s website.

Secondly, I wonder if the emerging generation of Christians - those say 15 to 35 – are readers? Compared to when I was a teenager (not all that long ago), my contemporaries don’t seem to read much these days. Do those in the business of propagating Christian knowledge and information need to get with the times and focus on websites, DVDs, games?

Thirdly, this is going to have a big impact on the Christian presence of our town centres. You may not like the way they do things or what they choose to display, but many Christian bookshops in the UK are places of witness and mission. If SPCK shuts all their shops, 25 major towns and cities in the UK will be the poorer for their absence.

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