I’m saddened to see the financial problems of IBS-STL who
run Wesley Owen, Authentic Media and others. The temptation is to view
financial difficulty as a wholly bad thing but it is an opportunity to take a
fresh approach and I hope there is a positive outcome.
Finding a buyer for the Wesley Owen chain of stores will not
be easy. Running bookshops in an Amazon age requires imagination and I suspect
the store locations and layouts would make it hard to copy the
Borders/Starbucks style retail environment. There is perhaps a future in a form
of ‘franchise’ venture with local churches looking to create or maintain a high
I very much hope the book publishing continues. I’m
convinced there is a market for quality Christian publishing in the UK
and Paternoster has a good track record here. Personally I would look to create
a company, like Traidcraft, where the shareholders provide capital for public
benefit rather than a financial return.
This also creates an opportunity to move away from the
growing comodification of Christian media in the UK.
Whilst the causes of this are complex, and not STL’s fault, it seems to me that
having media production, distribution and marketing in the hands of a small
number of organisations isn’t a good thing. Perhaps a greater diversity reflecting the breadth of the church in the UK, higher quality which moves away from 'how God healed my hamster' publishing towards resources which equip every disciple and an ability to invest in creativity giving a platform to emerging artists. The realities of commercial life will not make it easy but maybe it is possible something positive arises from the ashes.