Crisis slows demand for religious books

By Kristine Servando, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at May 28 2009 08:54 PM | Updated as of May 29 2009 05:49 AM

Although faith comes in endless supply, the demand for spiritual and theological books are reportedly slowing in the economic crisis, such that some religious publishing houses are asking: What would Jesus do?

Fr. Benedict Dilag, executive director of the Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc. (CCFI), said that their small publishing house-cum-book retail business has been feeling the crunch.

"We've been affected by crisis during the first and [the early part of the] second quarter this year. Maybe we have to be more creative in promoting our books," Dilag said.

Established in 1983 under the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines, the CCFI is known in the religious publishing business as a reputable source for quality religious books and theological materials, mostly by foreign authors. To keep prices down, the CCFI either imports books or tries to get the rights to republish them in the Philippines for a lesser cost.

"We don't have stores, but we go from parish to parish. It's direct marketing. We try to keep the prices of books down too because theological books are expensive and people's budget for books are usually just P200 or so," he said.

In lieu of their direct marketing activities, Dilag said the Claretians have been joining book fairs for several years now, in line with their goal of integral evangelization and "spreading the goodness of God."

Best-selling

Striving to be more relevant in tough times, Dilag said the CCFI editorial board has even picked a surprising book choice for their quarterly book launch each year.

Described by Dilag as a "crossover" choice, the CCFI will be promoting the Christian edition of "Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community" by Albert Winseman, Donald O. Clifton, and Curt Liesveld. He said the book is useful to everyone, not just to the Church's lay people.

"Last year, we gave samples of the book to bishops and they have been recommending them to parishes because it helps you plan your lifestyle. The book uses scientific tools to determine your talents, your unique personality, and it's really relevant in terms of the employment crisis today," he said.

Their promotion strategy itself was pumped up, to interest people beyond their niche market and to embrace the challenges of the digital age.

"Aside from launching the book, we offer a special activity after it called 'Strengths Coaching' where we get 'Hope coaches' who can guide your further. In terms of the digital age [and how people prefer to use gadgets than read books], It's definitely a challenge. But with [Living Your Strengths], it comes with a CD and you can use it online," he said.

Dilag added that the CCFI has even set up a "Hope Center" along Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City, which integrates a bookstore, internet cafe, multimedia area, and prayer or counseling rooms in one.

Despite the challenges in the book sale business, Dilag said he still believes that there will always be demand for spiritual writing. In fact, their consistent bestseller throughout the years has reportedly been the Bible, followed closely by the popular "Bible Diary" (the Christian community edition), where people can reflect on scriptures daily.

"Sales have been fluctuating but there will still be people who buy. People are always looking for meaning [or a solution to their problems], and this is something that a good book can provide. Reading spiritual books enrich them. To give them hope and inspiration, they need us now more than ever," he said.

For more information, visit www.claretianpublication.com or visit them at the CCFI Bookstore, 8 Mayumi Street, U.P. Village in Diliman, Quezon City for their Back to School Big Time Sale. Join them from June 23 to 27 at the 13th Philippine Academic Book Fair at SM Megamall and drop by on June 23 (2-3 p.m.) for the book launch of "Living Your Strengths."