Books, Books, Books
The Internet Monk begs for some linkage to his series on Christian Marketing, so since he's always worth reading, here we go. Check out his many other excellent posts and essays while you're there.
So I've often wondered why Evangelical Protestant bookselling goes on like a house afire, where Catholic bookselling doesn't. Go into a Christian (i.e. Evangelical) store and then into a Catholic one, and see who has walls and walls of books, and who has a little section of books tucked away behind the racks of prayer cards. What is the Catholic equivalent to monster phenomenons like The Prayer of Jabez, or The Purpose-Driven Life, or the Left Behind series? Not in terms of content, but of popularity and sales. Even if you figure that Catholics have less cultural solidarity than do Evangelicals, and so are less likely to have uniform bookbuying habits, the nevertheless large number of serious, mass-attending orthodox Catholics doesn't seem to have an impact on Catholic book marketing, which lingers in the basement. Name one bestselling Catholic book of the last ten years that was significant enough in sales to be noticed by the secular media.
One possibility is that the seriously Catholic (and therefore likely Catholic book-buying) market share is more interested in buying older writings than newer. If the Catholic analogue to Rick Warren is Thomas a Kempis, and if your parish friends are recommending The Imitation of Christ or The Story of a Soul at least as often as they're recommending Scott Hahn or Fr. Benedict Groeschel, then it's not going to support a booming book market. Is there an Evangelical equivalent to TAN Publishers or Sophia Press, which are doing a strong business selling reprints of Catholic books with expired copyrights?
Anyway I think this has some traction as a homeschooling issue, or at least as a broader education issue. About half of U.S. homeschoolers would self-describe as Evangelical or fundamental Christians. If their book-buying habits are already so overwhelming just from their religious identity, does this have a relation to the mushrooming market in homeschooling materials, as sellers figure out where the book-buying money is migrating? I would love to see some hard numbers on the sales of homeschooling materials over the last several years, especially broken down between Christian and secular-oriented materials. And if Frank Turk (go follow the iMonk's links) thinks there's a problem in providing an "interpretive grid" for orthodoxy in Christian bookselling, that goes triple for Christian homeschooling materials, where buyers want to know not just what's orthodox (whether that means Ev. or Cath.) but also what's educationally serious, accurate, and useful. Where are the independent websites with reviews (beyond a few niche sites like love2learn) to help homeschoolers sort through the ever-growing mountains of materials?