What innovations could a Christian bookstore do to keep turnover?


Northern Europe


The new concept that bookseller Hans Petter Foss is launching in Norkirken in Trondheim is fully based on self-service. Photo KPK, Stein Gudvangen

Christian bookstores in Norway close one after the other. From the 30 there were once, only ten are open today. Hans Petter Foss invented a new concept to rescue the Christian bookstore.

The 77-year-old Foss is the owner of the Bookstore Bok & Media in Oslo. In the last few years, his bookshop has struggled financially, he tells KPK. So, at the end of this year, Foss realised that something needed to be done. "Should we move, or should we do something else?"

It is not going well for bookstores in Norway. Before the end of the year, the last store of the well-known Vivo book chain will have disappeared. And bookstores are not only in heavy weather in Norway. All over Europe, people are reading less. As a result, the ability of minors to comprehend texts decreases, a recent research showed.


In this context, Foss thought about an innovative solution that would increase the sale of his books again. The new concept is in the spirit of revival preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge, the bookstore owner told KPK; not surprisingly, because Foss himself is enthusiastic about the preacher.

In Foss's concept, people no longer have to go to the bookstore to buy reading materials. Instead, they can acquire literature at the church, for example.

Currently, a pilot with what is known as a book store is running in Trondheim. In the newly renovated Norkirken, people can find a corner with bookshelves in the canteen area. They can take a seat and browse through the books for as long as they want. And if they see one they want to buy, they don't even need to wait for a cashier. Instead, they can just proceed to a pay terminal and scan their books and card to pay. Everything is self-service. Every magazine has only one "book host" who is responsible for the process.

This time of Advent, many people buy books. Therefore, this is a good time to test the project, KPK reports. Publishers, congregations and bookshops cooperate to make it possible.

If the project is successful, Foss hopes that there will be about 20 to 300 additional book magazines. Currently, he is busy getting more congregations to open up their doors to a magazine all over the country. The bookshop Bok & Media does not pay rent to the churches where the magazines are located. Neither does the publisher. However, the church receives part of the profit for making its space available.


Publishers are enthusiastic about the new concept, KPK writes. Ketil Jensen, head of the publisher Forlaghuset Lunde, stresses the importance of the fact that customers can still browse through physical books. "We think it is important for the reader to see the books on display to see that something new has appeared and browse through it. I think it will promote Christian book sales", he says.

Jensen believes that publishers need to bring the books closer to people as reading decreases among European populations. To do so, the publisher has experimented with people travelling around to sell books or churches opening a book corner. However, he points out that this is a lot of administrative hassle. "Here, we get a system with a self-service check-out and a digital payment solution. That makes shopping easier", he says.

Therese Lilleberg Johnsen, the general manager of Norkirken in Trondheim, where the pilot is running, says that a book magazine "builds the congregation and can engage members." In addition, she sees benefits in the fact that the "easy access to Christian literature can inspire people." In addition, she sees benefits in sharing in the profit of the book sale. The book magazine in Trondheim will be hosted by a volunteer.



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