Religion, Media, and the Marketplace

By Lynn Schofield Clark | Go to book overview

PART ONE

Selling, Influencing,
Publishing, Purchasing:
Establishing and Participating in the
Mediated Religious Marketplace

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, what we might call the "mass media" were largely limited to newspapers, tracts, pamphlets, novels, and sheet music. In general, these publications were made available through local sales within a rather small region, were sent by ship, or were transported through the services of the nascent post office. Much of what was circulated was religious or political in nature, echoing the concerns related to the political and economic revolutions in America, France, and Britain and the enduring role of religious life throughout the developed and colonized world.

As David Nord describes in the first chapter of this section, the first Bible Society of the United States had its beginnings in 1808, when religious leaders sought a way to distribute Bibles to poor immigrants in the Philadelphia area. Because they wanted to increase the circulation of their materials, they both gave away and sold books, a balancing act that required careful management, according to Nord. As the Bible Society became not only a distributor but a publisher of religious materials, they were confronted with many issues that publishers still grapple with today, including the need to find a combination of low cost and high volume to satisfy consumer expectations and the need to centralize operations for greater efficiency and quality control.

In this chapter, Nord discusses the religious motivation that led publishers to offer free books to those they considered to be nonbelievers. Such a practice

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