Where can we recapture the experience of buying a Bible?

August 1, 2023
By: Aaron Armstrong

I still remember the first time I went searching for a Bible as a new Christian. There was a lot that I didn’t know. I didn’t know much about translations or different types of Bible editions or anything like that. But I did know that I wanted something that felt good. Something that would last.

I must have spent over an hour in the Christian bookstore down the street from my house, holding and flipping through a dozen different versions. There were so many things to consider. Its weight and size. The feel of its cover as I held it. The paper stock and type size. How easily it lays flat on a table.

Eventually I found the one I wanted, and I adored it. I used it every day, underlining, highlighting, circling, and making notes in the margins as I read and studied. Nearly two decades later, I still have it and probably always will—even though it’s so marked up and beat up that it’s unusable.

Where do we go if there are no Christian bookstores?

Maybe you had a similar experience: walking into a store and carefully choosing just the right Bible for yourself or for a loved one. And I think we can all agree that with the loss of so many—though, thankfully not all—Christian bookstores, we’ve lost something online shopping can’t replace. We’ve lost the experience of buying a Bible in person.

Publishers and retailers have tried to emulate the experience of real-life shopping. They offer videos and share photography designed to give us a sense of how Bibles look and feel in a person’s hand and in a real setting. They offer digital samples to read. And these are all helpful. I’m glad they exist. But they’re not the same.

Is there a way to recover that experience? Where do you go if you don’t have a Christian bookstore nearby? (Side note: did you know you can find the stores closest to you using the store finder at getitlocaltoday.com? Give it a try.) While you may not have a Christian bookstore close to home, you may have a store like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million nearby. And that might be the best place for you to recapture the experience of searching for the right Bible.

Embrace the opportunity to recapture a (nearly) lost experience

The idea of a big box retailer being the best place to recapture this experience might surprise you. But when you walk into the store, you may be surprised by the robustness of the Bible selection. Dozens of Bible types in multiple translations fill the shelves, all for you to explore.

Study Bibles with different emphases. Journaling and devotional Bibles. Bibles for everyday reading. All of them are available for you to explore and experience. (And if you need some times on what to look for when buying a Bible, here are a few to help.)

You get to feel its weight in your hand and flip through its pages, listening to the sound of their fluttering. To see and feel the paper and open it on a table to see how flat it lays. To even let the smell of it reach your senses if that’s your thing. All those things that really matter as you search for the right Bible.

(But maybe don’t go sniffing Bibles in the store; it’s weird.)

A store like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million can’t replace the full experience of a Christian bookstore, and it’s not meant to. But it does offer us the opportunity to recapture an experience that we’ve nearly lost as faith-focused brick and mortar retail has declined: the tactile, real-life experience of buying a Bible in person. And for that, I am grateful.

Aaron Armstrong

Aaron Armstrong is a Marketing Director with Thomas Nelson Bibles. He is also the author of multiple books, documentaries, and Bible studies, including I’m a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ. A Canadian living in the United States, Aaron serves at his local church as a small group leader and as a part of its preaching team. He loves to write, especially to help people grow as followers of Jesus. To learn more, visit aaronarmstrong.co.

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3 replies on “Where can we recapture the experience of buying a Bible?”

I am in agreement with the fact that the loss of bookstores of all kinds or a thing of the past. Praise God for Books A Million. Also, I smell on my books before I buy them.

I personally mourn the loss of our Christian book stores.
I too have spent hours searching for the perfect (or close to) bible and enjoyed every one.
Unfortunately most of the stores that have survived can only carry a limited selection now and if I want something high end I still have to either go on line or take it when it comes in.
I have multiple bibles all with Morocco leather,calfskin or goat skin covers and most stores cannot afford to stock that price point. Most of the time I would like to blend two or three manufacturers together to get it just the way I want it(cover,translation, format) but that’s not going to happen lol.
Unfortunately the experience of the hunt which I loved is mostly gone for new believers.
I don’t need another Bible but I feel for those that are still on the hunt.

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