The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880

By Candy Gunther Brown | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
The Word in the World
of Twenty-first-Century
American Culture

“For the first time in the history of our annual hardcover bestseller charts,” announced Publishers Weekly in 2002, “the #1 fiction and #1 nonfiction title come from Christian publishers.” Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne, the eighth end-times novel in the Left Behind series, and Bruce Wilkinson's Prayer of Jabez, a devotional aid, sold 2.9 million and 8 million copies respectively. Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's 1995 novel, Left Behind, its soon-to-be eleven sequels, and over a dozen related titles have together sold over 50 million copies; the final title in the series is scheduled for release in the summer of 2004. The novelists' agent, Alive Communications, has authorized offshoot children's books, audio and graphic editions, apparel, and a movie that hit mainstream theaters in 2001—although it has refused contracts for other accessory products and has criticized the movie's coproducer, Cloud Ten Pictures, for releasing a board game. In a similar vein, the New York Times reported that religious titles accounted for four of the ten best-selling Idiot's Guides for 2001. Annual sales of Christian books and accessories (like candles, action figures, key chains, coffee mugs, bookmarks, neckties, Christmas ornaments, Bible covers, and computer screen savers) have soared to $4 billion, up from $1 billion in 1980.1

Contemporary evangelical authors and publishers—more aggressively than their nineteenth-century precursors—seek and generally find an outlet for their wares by participating in the distribution networks of the general book trades. Evangelicals, like their nonevangelical peers, exploit the vast markets served by internet vendors such as Amazon.com, mammoth bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, and all-purpose retailers, including Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam's Club. Yet, as in earlier

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