Not really news, but Friends United Meeting recently dedicated their new Welcome Center in what was once the FUM bookstore:
On September 15, 2007, FUM dedicated the space once used as the Quaker Hill Bookstore as the new FUM Welcome Center. The Welcome Center contains Quaker books and resources for F/friends to stop by and make use of during business hours. Tables and chairs to comfortably accommodate 50 people make this a great space to rent for reunions, church groups, meetings, anniversary/birthday parties, etc. Reduced prices are available for churches.
Most Quaker publishers and booksellers have closed or been greatly reduced over the last ten years. Great changes have occurred in the Philadelphia-area Pendle Hill bookstore and publishing operation, the AFSC Bookstore in Southern California, Barclay Press in Oregon. The veritable Friends Bookshop in London farmed out its mail order business a few years ago and has seen part of its space taken over by a coffeebar: popular and cool I’m sure, but does London really needs another place to buy coffee? Rumor has it that Britain’s publications committee has been laid down. The official spin is usually that the work continues in a different form but only Barclay Press has been reborn as something really cool. One of the few remaining booksellers is my old pals at FGC’s QuakerBooks: still selling good books but I’m worried that so much of Quaker publishing is now in one basket and I’d be more confident if their website showed more signs of activity.
The boards making these decisions to scale back or close are probably unaware that they’re part
of a larger trend. They probably think they’re responding to unique situations (the peer group Quakers Uniting in Publications sends internal emails around but hasn’t done much to publicize this story outside of its membership). It’s sad to see that so many Quaker decision-making bodies have independently decided that publishing is not an essential part of their mission.