Despite the economic crisis of 1998, the situation gave us new opportunities. Of course, publishers had reduced incomes, but the number of titles even increased. We have many new distributors in various Russian cities since 1998. Also, we now sell more books in secular bookstores. Our system of book delivery by mail works very well. On a regular basis we send information about our books to most of the churches we know. Where there are many believers, new bookstores arise.
Free distribution has not only a negative, but a positive side. Many people want, but have no opportunity to buy, even Bibles, especially in prisons. On the other hand, free distribution is not useful at this time when Western missions give too many free Bibles and other Christian books to one church, and that church--instead of giving the books away--sells them below cost. These in turn are sold on the market below cost. Thus, the purchaser has the wrong idea about the real cost of the book.
Pavel Damyan, President
The Bible for Everyone
St. Petersburg, Russia
Greetings from Slovakia. Here are a few thoughts on Christian book distribution in Russia, which remains problematic for several reasons. Christians try to keep prices as low as possible for good reasons: (1) to get better distribution to poor people; (2) because in some quarters a deep suspicion of money lingers from Communist indoctrination. This means that the book price cannot sustain all the people in the distribution chain. Also, socialism did not foster the idea of a win-win [situation]. So people believe that if one person wins, another must be losing. As a result, distribution is very difficult to set up.
Other problems include the lack of capital to set up shops, lack of skill in operations, and an understandable unwillingness to learn from people from the West who, for good reason, do not know the context and whose suggestions appear to be naive, even when they might work. More significantly, Christians are often unwilling to use non-Christian distribution channels that could sell many titles. These non-Christian channels are improving in some places, but the separation of Christians from society and a wrong understanding of "the world" puts unnecessary barriers in the way. In Central Europe the situation is different. In Slovakia about half of 300 bookshops are willing to take Christian titles. The same is true in Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Unappealing cover designs, combined with a lack of understanding of the target market, does not help, but these also are improving in many places. We need more national writers who are in tune with the questions and issues facing their churches and society. This requires time for reflection, good editing, and thinking, but activists often find it difficult to take the time. Our zeal often hinders our success.
Marsh Moyle, Director
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© 2000 East-West Church and Ministry Report